Blog Tour: Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood

Publication Date: August 23, 2022

Welcome to the Love on the Brain book tour with Berkley Publishing Group. (This blog tour post is also posted on my Tumblr book, art, & fandom blog Whimsical Dragonette.)

Synopsis:

LOVE ON THE BRAIN introduces readers to neuroscientist Bee Königswasser, who lives her life by a simple motto: What would Marie Curie do? If NASA offered her the leading role on a neuroengineering project—a literal dream come true after years scraping by on the crumbs of academia—Marie would accept without hesitation. Duh! But the mother of modern physics never had to co-lead alongside an engineer who also happens to be her archnemesis. Levi Ward made his feelings toward Bee very clear in grad school – he hated her, plain and simple. But when Bee is faced with one career dilemma after the next, it seems the tables may be turning. Perhaps it’s her occipital cortex playing tricks on her, but Bee could swear she can see Levi softening into an ally… or maybe even something more?

Author Bio:

Hazelwood draws on her own experience as a professor of neuroscience to capture the cutthroat world of higher education, both “the agony and the ecstasy” of academia. Hazelwood’s stories are also heavily influenced by pop culture as The Love Hypothesis was originally conceived as Star Wars fanfiction. Her novels are perfect for readers who geek out over rom-coms, and for fans of Emily Henry and Helen Hoang.  

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What I love most about this book – as I did with the Love Hypothesis – is how faithfully Ali Hazelwood portrays academia and science; specifically, what it’s like to be a woman in STEM. It’s even more prominent in this book, and I immediately feel such a kinship with Bee and the other characters. It’s almost visceral, this sense of belonging. Having attended a predominantly male STEM school it’s all so, SO familiar.

I loved the You’ve Got Mail -esque premise, and greatly enjoyed watching it play out. It is inevitable from the beginning what will happen, but it’s the journey that’s the important part in this story. In such a story, everything hangs on the characters. Her characters feel so real, so very human and alive. And the precision with which she skewers certain types of people in STEM is astonishing. I was wholly invested for every moment of the story.

The sex scenes were decent, I think. Not the best I’ve ever read, perhaps, but then I’m not really a good judge of sex scenes, since I’d honestly prefer it if they all disappeared and tend to skim them. I have a feeling that a lot of people will really like them, and that’s what matters. They were different than a lot of the ones I’ve read before which is something.

It’s clear that Ali Hazelwood is very keen on the small woman/hulking dude dynamic which… is not my thing. But again, I’m pretty sure a lot of people will really enjoy it. I personally appreciated Levi’s sensitivity and wit and general decentness more. Contrary to Bee’s initial impression of him, he’s definitely the sort of guy I would want to get to know. Similarly, I really want to get to know Bee. And Rocio and Kaylee and Reike (even though she’s only present through phone calls). And Lily and Penny… basically everyone. They’re unique and chaotic and quirky and charming and just… the sort of people you would want to know and have in your life.

Sometimes when I’m reading I find that the characters’ struggles aren’t really relevant to me, or sometimes not even plausible. Not the case here. I was with these characters every step of the way and firmly on their team through all their struggles and joys. And that is one of the things I love most about reading romance, and why this became an instant favorite.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for providing an e-arc for review.

Favorite Quotes:

The real villain is love: an unstable isotope, constantly undergoing spontaneous nuclear decay.

Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood

Levi became my sworn archenemy on a Tuesday in April, in my Ph.D. advisor’s office.

Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood

Science doesn’t give a shit. Science is reliable in its variability. Science does whatever the fuck it wants. God, I love science.

Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood

I take off my sandals and push my legs against the dashboard, hoping Levi won’t take offense at my bright yellow nail polish and my incredibly ugly pinkies. I call them the Quasimotoes.

Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood

I now know more about body decomposition and makeup palettes than I thought I ever would, but I regret nothing. This is almost nice.

Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood

Rocio rummages in her jeans pocket and offers him an unwrapped, slightly squished red gumball.

“Thank you. This is…” He looks at the gum. “A thing that I now have.”

Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood

ARC Review: Nobody’s Princess by Erica Ridley

Publication Date: July 26, 2022

Synopsis:

A fun and feminist Regency romp from a master of the genre hailed as “a delight” by Bridgerton author Julia Quinn.

Nothing happens in London without Graham Wynchester knowing. His massive collection of intelligence is invaluable to his family’s mission of aiding those most in need. So when he deciphers a series of coded messages in the scandal sheets, Graham’s convinced he must come to a royal’s rescue. But his quarry turns out not to be a princess at all… The captivating Kunigunde de Heusch is anything but a damsel in distress, and the last thing she wants is Graham’s help.

All her life, Kuni trained alongside the fiercest Royal Guardsmen in her family, secretly planning to become her country’s first Royal Guardswoman. This mission in London is a chance to prove herself worthy without help from a man, not even one as devilishly handsome as Graham. To her surprise, Graham believes in her dream as much as she does, which makes it harder to resist kissing him…and falling in love. But how can she risk her heart if her future lies an ocean away?

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Now that I’ve finished the full book, I can say that it was everything I was hoping and more. I absolutely loved every second I spent with the Wynchesters, of course, and Kunigunde makes an excellent addition. I wish I could be a Wynchester, but reading about them is a close second. They are my favorite fictional family — the Bridgertons don’t even come close.

This book is fiercely feminist, with Kunigunde determined to be the first female Royal Guard of Balcovia, and equally determined to accept no help from anyone to get there. Over her time with the Wynchesters she learns the value of family, friendship, and that having people on your side to help isn’t a weakness at all.

I really like how Erica Ridley took two characters with ambitions and goals that are diametrically opposed and brings them around to the same side eventually with the realization that it’s ok to let go of long-held dreams in order to reach for something better. I also really appreciate that both parties here opted for new dreams over old ones. It felt very balanced.

I also really appreciate the many issues that are touched on here. They carry weight with the story and feel organic and not forced at all. Slavery, racial equality, feminism, the plight of factory workers, cruel factory owners, lazy aristocracy, the frustrating slowness of Parliament and legislative change, chronic illness, child labor, mistreated animals… I’m sure I missed some. The Wynchesters tackle all of these.

One of my favorite things about this book is how Kunigunde spends time with each of the Wynchester siblings and comes to appreciate them and care for them all. It’s not just a romance between her and Graham, it involves the whole family. She has secret painting projects with Marjorie and they teach one another sign language and Balcovian. She terrorizes the university bullies with Elizabeth. She trains with Graham. She steals an antbear with Jacob, she watches Parliament with Chloe, she attends the reading circle with Philippa, she talks costumes with Tommy… and she opts to put off her own reconnaissance mission to help the Wynchesters on their mission to save a town of impoverished factory workers from their cruel factory owner.

The involvement of the Wynchester siblings doesn’t diminish the romance between Kunigunde and Graham, which is terribly swoony. Even though they are both rather pig-headed about the whole thing, they do eventually end up on the same page and it was delightful going on that journey with them.

Elizabeth once again stole my heart in this book as my favorite secondary character, and I cannot wait to read her story because it is bound to be epic. And feature a LOT of swords.

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

Favorite Quotes:

Kuni did not want her day saved. She would do the saving of days, thank you very much. The entire point of this mission was to prove how capable she was on her own without help, especially from a man. An Englishman.

“Welcome to England,” Graham said. “Our natural condition is proud and offended.”

“Anything worth doing starts with falling,” he said cheerfully.

If anyone could learn to leap atop a narrow beam during the free moments of a four-week reconnaissance mission in a foreign country, that person would be Kunigunde.

A very low possibility. Very, very low. She absolutely, positively, probably would rebuff him if he tried. Maybe.

“It’s not murder if the villain deserves to have his blood spilled,” Elizabeth protested.

She shoved the cane away and turned to face Elizabeth Wynchester. “I am not going to sit around your house sewing decorative samplers”

Elizabeth stared at her. “Why would anyone pick up a needle when they could pick up a sword?”

“Shall we return to your home?”

“Must we?” Elizabeth lifted her cane. “I have good days and bad days. On bad days, I can’t move. On good days, ’tis the villains who had better step out of my way. This is a good day. I don’t want to waste a moment of it.”

…the presence of maids or footmen registered about as much as the individual mullions on the windows. Without them, the whole thing would fall apart, but no one ever exclaimed in wonder at well-functioning mullions. Royals looked right through the painstakingly crafted glass to the view on the other side.

“We can take our trained geldings!”

Kuni sent a suspicious glance toward Jacob. “Are they… messenger homing horses?”

The Wynchesters had taught her that family was more than blood. Family was anywhere you were treated like family. Anywhere you were welcomed, and cherished, and loved.

ARC Review: Maggie Moves On by Lucy Score

Publication Date: June 21, 2022

Synopsis:

Can these opposites turn up the heat… without burning down the house?

House-flipping sensation and YouTube star Maggie Nichols can’t wait to dig into her next challenge. Arriving in tiny Kinship, Idaho, with only a cot and a coffeemaker, Maggie is prepared to restore a crumbling Victorian mansion in four months or less. She has her to-do lists, her blueprints, and her team. What she doesn’t have is time for sexy, laid-back landscaper Silas Wright.

The man takes flirtation to a whole new level. And he does it shirtless…sometimes pants-less. He and his service school-dropout dog are impressively persistent. But she’s not interested in putting down roots. Not when fans tune in to watch her travel the country turning dilapidated houses into dream homes. A short-term fling on the other hand could fit nicely into her calendar. After all, Maggie remembers what fun is like. Vaguely.

As their summer gets downright steamy, Silas manages to demolish the emotional walls she’s spent years building, sending Maggie into a panic. He’s the wrench in her carefully constructed plans. With the end of the project looming, she has a decision to make. But how can she stay when her entire career is built on moving on?

My Review:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Disclaimer: I don’t often read contemporary romance, and if I do, it’s almost always queer contemporary romance. So in some ways I was expecting this to not be 100% my thing.

In a lot of ways, I absolutely loved this. I’m a sucker for found family, always, and this is a really excellent example of a huge, boisterous, loving, slowly growing found family. It’s one of the best examples I’ve come across recently, in fact, and that part I would absolutely rate 5 stars.

Similarly Maggie herself I would give a high rating as she was an excellent main character. Hands-on, not afraid to get dirty, quick to see the potential in things, slow to trust, but with a huge heart, once you get past her walls.

My beef is with Silas, the love interest, also known as “Hot Landscaper Guy.” He is… confusing. In most ways he is 100% the typical ‘alpha male’ hero who manhandles, bosses ‘his girl’ around, is sure he knows what’s best for her in all situations, etc. I cannot stand alpha males, hence the lowered rating.

The confusing part comes in when he isn’t being your typical alpha male. He could also be thoughtful, sensitive, emotionally well-adjusted, intelligent, and romantic. Then, at the drop of the hat, alpha male Silas was back. It was weird – almost as if the author were trying to create the ‘perfect man’ to please every reader.

Also, the romance is insta-love and ‘fate’ and he knows he’s gonna marry her from the second he meets her (despite just getting out of a five-year relationship) and he spends the rest of the book attempting to convince her of that when she very much does not want to be convinced. It was very ‘I’m right and you’re wrong about your life choices so you should just do what I say.’

And he would just kiss her into agreeing with him basically. Like he would kiss her and her brain just went right out the window. And he gets all pout-y near the end when he thinks she might actually leave as she’d been planning to all along and he goes off and sulks for a month.

The sex scenes were also VERY alpha male and VERY straight and they made me cringe. I rolled my eyes and skimmed past them.

I also wished quite a few times that this were a queer romance. Like, pairing Maggie with a ‘Hot Landscaper Gal’ would have worked SO much better for me. Really, I would have happily taken a male-but-not-an-alpha-male love interest. Or a nonbinary love interest. I did like the queer secondary love story, but it was very much in the background.

I really enjoyed seeing the house slowly come together as the whole town pitched in, and I also really really enjoyed the historical mystery and treasure hunt storyline.

I should note that people who enjoy the alpha male dynamic will probably really enjoy this story.

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

Favorite Quotes:

“How’d you know I’d be here today?” she asked, shoving her hands in her pockets.

“You just bought yourself a playground. Where else would you be?”

Maggie Moves On by Lucy Score

His mouth was firm and warm against hers, and this time, instead of stealing her breath, it felt like he was giving it back to her. The tightness in her chest loosened, and something light and bright bloomed inside. Like heartburn. Only nice.

Maggie Moves On by Lucy Score

“It’s scary as fuck. I get it. But you can’t wait for everyone to be comfortable when it comes to you living your life. You’re the only one who gets to live it. So you might as well do what you want.”

Maggie Moves On by Lucy Score

“You ever stop and wonder what if life isn’t about earning your way to pleasure? What if it’s enjoying it when it makes itself available to you?”

Maggie Moves On by Lucy Score

“Just because you work hard and play hard doesn’t mean you’ve had to try hard to get what you wanted. Until now.”

Maggie Moves On by Lucy Score

ARC Review: The Servant and the Gentleman by Annabelle Greene

Publication Date: May 17, 2022

Summary:

A surly gentleman and his overworked clerk fake a relationship in this swoonworthy Regency romance from Annabelle Greene.

William Hartley’s wealth and social standing often make up for his short temper, but they can’t cure his claustrophobia. He’d lost hope of finding help for it, until meeting Josiah Balfour. In a moment of panic, Josiah’s presence is a balm to his senses, leaving Hartley calm for the first time in months.

Josiah Balfour knows his place—and it’s not in the bed of a gentleman. As the administrator for the Society of Beasts, he’s responsible for the club’s well-being. When a threat to the Society emerges from an unexpected quarter, it falls to Josiah to deal with it. But Hartley is willing to help, even if it involves posing as a couple to infiltrate a rival club.

Josiah needs Hartley’s prestige to help him save the Society, while Hartley simply needs Josiah. Their relationship might be a sham, but the desire between them is all too real. Stuck in close quarters with everything they love on the line, they discover that everything might just include each other. 

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I really enjoyed this thoughtful and romantic story. The fake dating across class boundaries was fun, and Josiah helping Hartley fend off his PTSD was well done. There were so many sweet moments as the two of them fell for one another (while pretending they hadn’t because it was impossible), as well as the perfect amount of wry humor.

The writing was lovely and the heavier topics (class boundaries, protecting those accused of loving other men, money and power, PTSD from a traumatic event) deftly and thoughtfully handled. There were a few more sex scenes than I usually like, but I was enjoying the story so much I didn’t mind skimming them.

My favorite thing about it is the way Hartley and Josiah relate to one another and push one another to be better. Hartley is a bit of a Darcy – he doesn’t really see anyone he considers ‘lower’ than himself and Josiah pushes him to open his eyes to all that he’s been ignoring. Watching Hartley slowly work to change was very satisfying. Hartley in turn pushes Josiah to have more confidence in himself.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Carina Press for providing an e-arc for review.

Favorite Quotes:

…Josiah joined him, lying down beside him, his face so full of long-suppressed emotion that it could have been a poem.

ARC Review: A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall

Publication Date: May 24, 2022

Synopsis:

A lush, sweeping queer historical romance from the bestselling author of Boyfriend Material—perfect for fans of Netflix’s Bridgerton, Evie Dunmore, and Manda Collins!

When Viola Caroll was presumed dead at Waterloo she took the opportunity to live, at last, as herself. But freedom does not come without a price, and Viola paid for hers with the loss of her wealth, her title, and her closest companion, Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood.

Only when their families reconnect, years after the war, does Viola learn how deep that loss truly was. Shattered without her, Gracewood has retreated so far into grief that Viola barely recognises her old friend in the lonely, brooding man he has become.

As Viola strives to bring Gracewood back to himself, fresh desires give new names to old feelings. Feelings that would have been impossible once and may be impossible still, but which Viola cannot deny. Even if they cost her everything, all over again.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was Everything. I am aware that I say that… not infrequently, but when I love things, I really love them. And this… I had high hopes, because lets be honest, I love everything Alexis Hall writes, but this was so much more.

Regency romance? check. Loads of pining? check. Loads of queer and unconventional characters? check.

I’ve read books like that before, of course. Not many, not nearly as many as I would like, but there are some. But I’ve never read one with a trans main character, and I didn’t anticipate how deeply it would hit me, as a nonbinary person who, like Viola, has struggled with my identity and my body and my desire.

Viola Caroll is strong and determined and fierce and deeply, painfully relatable. She is unapologetically herself and I love her for that. Gracewood accepts her and loves her as she is and it’s possibly the most revolutionary idea in the whole book. Most dukes would not be so accepting, I think — although Gracewood has spent his life trying to break free of the idea of what a duke can be so maybe it’s not so surprising. Surprising or not, it makes for a beautiful love story.

This falls more on the angsty side than the humorous side, unlike many of Alexis Hall’s other works, though it is still funny in parts. It’s what I was in the mood for, though, so it worked out. The writing is, as I have come to expect, absolutely gorgeous. I highlighted so many passages, and I know I will be returning to it again. I just hope we get a sequel – Mira’s story would be an excellent candidate.

This book also touches on grief, child abuse, addiction, and chronic pain, and tackles these topics gracefully. The characters are flawed and human and real, even the side characters. And, more than anything, it shows the deep love and acceptance between the characters, despite their flaws. I loved every minute of it.

— update 5/28/22—

I have now listened to the audio arc and can say that the narrator performs the story beautifully, though I had my doubts in the first few minutes. The character voices are distinct and easy to understand and fit the characters’ personalities and the emotion and humor come through perfectly (which is good, because this story is all about a lot of emotion).

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

Favorite Quotes:

“What other options? Men and women are permitted to interact in three ways: marriage, ruination, and polite indifference.”

“She’s a seventeen-year-old girl. She should be in London, having love affairs with unsuitable young men in a controlled environment. Not stuck in a mouldering fortress miles from anywhere.”

It made Viola feel oddly safe, this reminder that everyone lived their own illusions, chose their own truths, performed their own quiet magic before indifferent crowds.

She turned slowly, in case she scattered into dried leaves and dust.

“Loubear,” whispered Badger. “You have to be quiet when you’re eavesdropping. Otherwise it’s just a logistically difficult conversation.”

Viola was not certain that be virtuous, because vice is too much bother was quite the lesson a young gentleman was meant to be learning in these days of reason and enlightenment, but she let it go.

But there was a larger loneliness, one that came from inhabiting a space she’d had no choice but to build for herself, only to find that nobody could inhabit it with her.

As though he had become a man in a fable: lain with the wild ocean and woken, salt-stricken, forever changed, upon an unfamiliar shore.

“Suffering isn’t something we earn, Gracewood. It’s something we bear.”

Because that was the truth of trust. It was neither weak nor fleeting. It was steel and fire. And would endure as long as you let it.

Besides, it would not have done to read his sister’s intimate correspondence when there were ladies to do it for him.

The night beyond the city was mild and clear, the landscape a silvered forever—mirror-smooth fields, the ribbon twist of an occasional stream, ash trees, in curly-headed silhouette, cast like images from a magic lantern against the sky.

The night had been long and fraught and could have ended badly in so many ways. Could, in fact, end badly regardless. But still. What a marvel it was. What freedom. To be a woman unabashedly in love beneath a multitude of stars.

ARC Review: A Daring Pursuit by Kate Bateman

Publication Date: May 24, 2022

Synopsis:

The Davies and Montgomery families have been locked in an ancient feud. But it’s a thin line between love and hate in Kate Bateman’s A Daring Pursuit.

TWO ENEMIES
Carys Davies is doing everything in her power to avoid marriage. Staying single is the only way to hide the secret that could ruin her—and her family—if it was revealed. For the past two seasons she’s scandalized the ton with her outrageous outfits and brazen ways in a futile bid to deter potential suitors. Outwardly confident and carefree, inside she’s disillusioned with both men and love. There’s only one person who’s never bought her act—the only man who makes her heart race: Tristan Montgomery, one of her family’s greatest rivals.

ONE SCANDALOUS BARGAIN
Wickedly proper architect Tristan needs a respectable woman to wed, but he’s never stopped wanting bold, red-headed Carys. When she mockingly challenges him to show her what she’s missing by not getting married, Tristan shocks them both by accepting her indecent proposal: one week of clandestine meetings, after which they’ll go their separate ways. But kissing each other is almost as much fun as arguing, and their affair burns hotter than either of them expects. When they find themselves embroiled in a treasonous plot, can they trust each other with their hearts, their secrets…and their lives?

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I loved this tension-filled enemies-to-lovers romance. Carys is fiery and passionate, Tristan is cool and collected – at least on the outside. Their families have been feuding for hundreds of years, and Maddie and Gryff’s marriage in the previous book haven’t completely mended things between their families.

I love the ‘forbidden love because of feuding families’ trope, and here it’s used excellently. Carys and Tristan are both loveable, endearing characters as well and their chemistry sizzles from the beginning. Gotta love a ‘we’re both secretly in love with each other and have been since we were kids but we pretend to hate each other and pine dramatically’ dynamic.

The one thing I didn’t love was the sheer number of sex scenes. Now, I will grant that these are included for Reasons and so in some ways they really do need to be there. But I still found myself skimming them. Which is not to say that they’re badly written – I just don’t particularly enjoy reading frequent or prolonged sex scenes. Really, the fact that I read as much of them as I did speaks to the fact that they’re actually quite well-written, and I think that people who do enjoy reading sex scenes will like them a lot.

This book also has possibly the best opening line of any romance, ever. “Lady Carys Davies dressed to meet her blackmailer in the same way she dressed for every other social occasion: scandalously.” Tell me that doesn’t make you want to read more about Lady Carys Davies.

I look forward to reading more Montgomery – Davies romances in the future and will definitely be continuing the series as soon as the next book is available.

*Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing an e-arc for review.

Favorite Quotes:

Lady Carys Davies dressed to meet her blackmailer in the same way she dressed for every other social occasion: scandalously.

“You smile at other men, but with Tristan you glow. It’s like you come alive in his presence. You’re the fire to his ice.”

Looking at Tristan was like leaping into a frigid Welsh stream: One had to prepare.

“Then marry me. Live with me. Let me be your favorite enemy.”

ARC Review: To Marry and to Meddle by Martha Waters

Publishing Date: April 5, 2022

Synopsis:

The “sweet, sexy, and utterly fun” (Emily Henry, author of The People We Meet on Vacation) Regency Vows series continues with a witty, charming, and joyful novel following a seasoned debutante and a rakish theater owner as they navigate a complicated marriage of convenience.

Lady Emily Turner has been a debutante for six seasons now and should have long settled into a suitable marriage. However, due to her father’s large debts, her only suitor is the persistent and odious owner of her father’s favorite gambling house. Meanwhile, Lord Julian Belfry, the second son of a marquess, has scandalized society as an actor and owner of a theater—the kind of establishment where men take their mistresses, but not their wives. When their lives intersect at a house party, Lord Julian hatches a plan to benefit them both.

With a marriage of convenience, Emily will use her society connections to promote the theater to a more respectable clientele and Julian will take her out from under the shadows of her father’s unsavory associates. But they soon realize they have very different plans for their marriage—Julian wants Emily to remain a society wife, while Emily discovers an interest in the theater. But when a fleeing actress, murderous kitten, and meddlesome friends enter the fray, Emily and Julian will have to confront the fact that their marriage of convenience comes with rather inconvenient feelings.

With “an arch sense of humor and a marvelously witty voice that rivals the best of the Regency authors” (Entertainment Weekly), Martha Waters crafts another fresh romantic comedy that for fans of Julia Quinn and Evie Dunmore.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I really loved this. Emily’s journey from the perfect untouchable innocent to her true self – determined, fiery, with a quick wit – was so, so very satisfying to watch. Julian was also great. I loved the family dynamics and the message of acknowledging how your upbringing affected you and then growing and asserting your independence.

Emily’s friends were wonderful and I loved their gatherings. And her interactions with Julian, as they both fell in love, were perfection. And the grand gesture at the end? Swoon-worthy.

Really, I just loved it all. I spent the entirety of the book with this huge smile on my face. It was so sweet and swoony and romantic and funny. The perfect romantic comedy. I will be rereading this one for sure and Martha Waters is now a must-read for me.

Thanks to NetGalley and Atria Books for providing an e-arc for review.

Favorite Quotes:

“Can I help you?” he asked her, somewhat grumpily.

“You getting married,” his sister said, quite decisively “is the best thing that has happened in years.”

…really, Frenchmen were very charming; it was a shame His Majesty’s Army had spent so much time trying to kill them over the past twenty years.

Here, a woman could take up space, speak loudly, draw the eyes of a crowd—or, alternately, could slip into a role behind the scenes, quietly doing her work just as well as the men who surrounded her—and Emily found both prospects not shocking but… exhilarating.

He loved her.

And what was truly galling was that it had taken a waistcoat that was an offense to God and man alike to make him realize it.

ARC Review: Going Public by Hudson Lin

Publication Date: March 29, 2022

Synopsis:

A boss. His employee.

And a scandal that’s about to change everything…


As an operating partner at Jade Harbour, Raymond Chao prides himself in fixing even the most disastrous of portfolio companies—no matter the cost. While his colleagues might not always like his methods, they love his results. But his latest business partner isn’t cooperating, and what’s worse, Raymond’s underhanded tactics have landed him in hot water with the law.  

Elvin Goh has been Raymond’s assistant for years, and he’s been in love with the charming, ruthless playboy for just as long. There’s very little that Elvin won’t do—or hasn’t done—for Raymond. Impossible crush aside, it’s his job. But this time, even Elvin can’t see a way out. 

When long nights in the office lead to whispered confessions and a newfound intimacy, it seems like a dream come true—for both of them. But with the prospect of failure on the horizon, can this dream team beat the odds and come out the victors in the office and in their hearts?  

My Review:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I really enjoyed this MM romance. I chose it because I’ve been on a fanfic kick and I needed to get back to reading actual books (nothing wrong with reading fanfic, but I have a lot of arcs publishing soon that I really need to get to). I figured it was kinda like an AU and it was, which definitely helped. It had a lot of things going for it though.

First, the things I loved. Diversity! This was set in Canada and the leads were both asian which was a nice change from the standard white male leads. Also, there were many characters of color. Ray is pansexual (I loved that it made it clear that he included nonbinary folks in his one-night stands, though I do question the wisdom of lumping ‘trans’ in with ‘nonbinary’ and separating it from ‘men and women.’) Elvin is demisexual. There are several other non-straight couples / characters mentioned, though the focus is on Ray and Elvin’s deepening relationship.

The way Elvin and Ray discuss the power imbalance inherent in their relationship and that it gives them both pause was refreshing. As was the way each took care of the other in his own way.

Also I loved that the sex scenes were pretty minimal. Since Elvin is demisexual, it made sense. It was refreshing, as I read romance for the romance rather than the sex anyway. The ones that were there felt earned with their close emotional bond and romantic connection.

As for the things I didn’t love as much, the plot felt rushed at the end and tended to fade into the background. Everything gets swept under the rug and wrapped up far too easily for uncovering a mafia drug-smuggling and money-laundering operation. A lot of things — like how they missed it all when they bought Caron paper in the first place — didn’t really add up or get explained. I didn’t care that much, as I was in it for the romance anyway, but it still would have been nice to have the plot a little more developed.

All in all, it was a lovely afternoon escape that hit all the right fanfic notes and kept me engaged.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Carina Adores for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC Review: Love Letters by the Sea by Erica Ridley

Publication Date: April 12, 2022

Synopsis:

What happens when the proprietress of Siren’s Retreat discovers the charming romantic she’s been corresponding with is same villain turning her beloved property into a gaming hell?

When not responding to advice column letters, entrepreneurial widow Mrs. Deborah Cartwright runs bright, beautiful Siren’s Retreat, legendary for helping her lovelorn guests find their perfect match. Deborah experienced love years before, and lightning does not strike twice. Although there might be a light flirtation with a certain anonymous letter-writer she’s definitely not falling for, there’s no time for romance. Not whilst a heartless blackguard is in town to wrest her beloved inn out from under her!

Clever, career-minded Mr. Patrick Gretham is the trusted man-of-business for a powerful lord, who is eager to turn this perfectly situated property wasted on lovebirds into a gambling hell the likes of which no one leaves with their fortunes intact. Over Deborah’s dead body! The beautiful proprietress hates everything Patrick stands for and will fight him every step of the way. Except when they find themselves on opposite sides of a plume. Or falling into each other’s embrace…

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This book was so, so delightful. I put off reading it because I’ve been on a fanfic kick, and it was exactly what I needed today.

Erica Ridley absolutely shines at creating characters that jump off the page and make you fall in love with them. The settings aren’t as important, and fade into the background just because the characters shine so bright.

I love that these aren’t your typical regency debutante and rake. Instead we have a widowed proprietress of an inn (and former opera singer) and a man of business with a soft heart, smile lines around his eyes, and silver at his temples. I love that they fall in love anonymously through letters and in person but are kept apart by being adversaries with seemingly nothing in common. I love the way we can’t help but fall with them.

This was short and sweet and brimming with romance and I smiled so much while reading (a feat, as I am coming down with a cold and feel little like smiling). I will definitely be pulling it out again when I need to be cheered up and reminded of how much I love watching people fall in love. This, right here, is why I read romance novels, and why Erica Ridley is always at the top of my list.

*Thanks to NetGalley, Erica Ridley, and WebMotion for providing an e-arc for review.

Favorite Quotes:

She waited, but he said nothing more. Just gripped her hands and stared at her beseechingly, belligerently, besottedly. As if he were confused and angry and half in love all at the same time and would rather not be any of it.

ARC Review: How to Be a Wallflower by Eloisa James

Publication Date: March 29, 2022

Synopsis:

From New York Times bestseller Eloisa James, a new Regency-set novel in which a heiress with the goal of being a wallflower engages a rugged American in a scorchingly sensual, witty wager that tests whether clothing does indeed make the man—or the wallflower!

Miss Cleopatra Lewis is about to be launched in society by her aristocratic grandfather. But since she has no intention of marrying, she visits a costume emporium specifically to order unflattering dresses guaranteed to put off any prospective suitors.

Powerful and charismatic Jacob Astor Addison is in London, acquiring businesses to add to his theatrical holdings in America—as well as buying an emerald for a young lady back in Boston. He’s furious when a she-devil masquerading as an English lady steals Quimby’s Costume Emporium from under his nose.

Jake strikes a devil’s bargain, offering to design her “wallflower wardrobe” and giving Cleo the chance to design his. Cleo can’t resist the fun of clothing the rough-hewn American in feathers and flowers. And somehow in the middle of their lively competition, Jake becomes her closest friend.

It isn’t until Cleo becomes the toast of all society that Jake realizes she’s stolen his fiercely guarded heart. But unlike the noblemen at her feet, he doesn’t belong in her refined and cultured world.

Caught between the demands of honor and desire, Jake would give up everything to be with the woman he loves—if she’ll have him!

My Review:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This was my first book by Eloisa James and it shan’t be my last. It was an amusing and engaging romp and I enjoyed it a lot. The characters were relatable and sympathetic, the side characters quite amusing, and the premise just absurd enough to inject quite a lot of humor and shake up the typical regency romance plot.

I greatly enjoyed hearing about Cleo’s mother and seeing her work through her grief and mixed feelings. I also enjoyed the wardrobes Cleo and Jake created for one another — and especially Byng’s joyful and colorful takeover of the designs. Cleo and Jake’s closeness and respect for one another was also quite wonderful.

The plot at times felt a bit thin, and the ending a bit contrived. Also, Cleo got over her shame and humiliation just a little too fast to be believable. It felt a bit like the story had to hurry up and conclude within a certain page count.

Overall though, a highly enjoyable read and I recommend it. I also look forward to the sequel(s).

*Thanks to NetGalley and Avon for providing an e-arc for review.

Favorite Quotes:

She loathed stubborn men: they were so often underqualified and overpresumptuous.

They were a wild and undisciplined people who wouldn’t agree to pay taxes, even for tea. They’d rather drink coffee, simply to avoid taxes.

Which said about everything that needed to be said, given that coffee was a vile drink that tasted like fusty beans.

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