Tag Archive | Contemporary Romance

Review: Happy Place by Emily Henry

Happy Place Book Cover Happy Place
Emily Henry
Contemporary | Second Chance Romance
Berkley
April 25, 2023
Audiobook
400
Public Library
August 18 - 28, 2023

Harriet and Wyn have been the perfect couple since they met in college—they go together like salt and pepper, honey and tea, lobster and rolls. Except, now—for reasons they’re still not discussing—they don’t.

They broke up six months ago. And still haven’t told their best friends.

Which is how they find themselves sharing the largest bedroom at the Maine cottage that has been their friend group’s yearly getaway for the last decade. Their annual respite from the world, where for one vibrant, blue week they leave behind their daily lives; have copious amounts of cheese, wine, and seafood; and soak up the salty coastal air with the people who understand them most.

Only this year, Harriet and Wyn are lying through their teeth while trying not to notice how desperately they still want each other. Because the cottage is for sale and this is the last week they’ll all have together in this place. They can’t stand to break their friends’ hearts, and so they’ll play their parts. Harriet will be the driven surgical resident who never starts a fight, and Wyn will be the laid-back charmer who never lets the cracks show. It’s a flawless plan (if you look at it from a great distance and through a pair of sunscreen-smeared sunglasses). After years of being in love, how hard can it be to fake it for one week… in front of those who know you best?

A couple who broke up months ago make a pact to pretend to still be together for their annual weeklong vacation with their best friends in this glittering and wise new novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Emily Henry.

Review

Okay, okay. This isn’t a bad book. It just wasn’t what I expected. Did I read the blurb before I started? No. Should I have? Probably. But I’ve loved every other Emily Henry book! I had no reason to think I wouldn’t love this one when I dove in sight unseen!

With that out of the way, let’s continue and talk about what I liked: Wyn and Harriet. Wyn was very sweet and Harriet very kind. They were both stellar characters, with Harriet having a little more character growth. I also really enjoyed the chapters that dove into their past and the start of their relationship. I preferred that to the present day chapters with the rift between them.

What I didn’t like so much was their friend group. For one, they kind of blended together in my head. They were each different, but they were all introduced so quickly that I couldn’t name them now, and while listening to the audiobook, I couldn’t keep them all straight. I also didn’t like the lack of communication between Wyn and Harriet. It’s one of my least favorite tropes, the characters who wouldn’t have a problem if they’d just freaking be honest and vulnerable with each other! 

All that said, I think if I had gone into this knowing it’s a second chance romance I would have liked it a lot more. I just wasn’t in the right headspace for this type of book though. 

Fans of Emily Henry: It’s good, but read the blurb first so you know what you’re getting into!

Review: November 9 by Colleen Hoover

November 9 Book Cover November 9
Colleen Hoover
Contemporary Romance
Atria Books
November 10, 2015
Audiobook
310
Public Library
September 11 - 14, 2023

Beloved #1 New York Times bestselling author Colleen Hoover returns with an unforgettable love story between a writer and his unexpected muse.

Fallon meets Ben, an aspiring novelist, the day before her scheduled cross-country move. Their untimely attraction leads them to spend Fallon’s last day in L.A. together, and her eventful life becomes the creative inspiration Ben has always sought for his novel. Over time and amidst the various relationships and tribulations of their own separate lives, they continue to meet on the same date every year. Until one day Fallon becomes unsure if Ben has been telling her the truth or fabricating a perfect reality for the sake of the ultimate plot twist.

Can Ben’s relationship with Fallon—and simultaneously his novel—be considered a love story if it ends in heartbreak?

Review

I was warned. 

They said “Don’t start (reading Colleen Hoover) with this book, it will break you.”

I ignored them. 

November 9 is my first foray into the literary world of Colleen Hoover.

As I read this book I wondered to myself, “What are they talking about? I saw this ‘revelation’ coming from a mile away. I’m not shattered into a million pieces.” 

But then it hit me. Not the first “twist” but the second. 

November 9 is the story of Fallon and Ben. Both 18, they meet on November 9, the anniversary of the date Fallon was trapped in her fathers burning house. Ben expresses his interest in Fallon, but Fallon tells him she refuses to get into a serious relationship until age 23, plus she’s moving across the country that night. Ben, an aspiring author, makes a suggestion – every year they meet on the same date, at a prearranged time location, and he’ll write a book with her as his muse. They do not exchange phone numbers, email addresses, and block each other on social media, so nobody can cheat.

Each subsequent November 9 we see them meet again, and watch their relationship blossom and grow, despite the fact they only spend a few hours with each other each year. By the final year, it’s clear they’re in love, but when Fallon learns a hard truth about Ben, she can’t just forgive and forget. She’s utterly devastated. 

I literally can’t say anything else or I’ll ruin the entire book. Just know that if you guess the ending, you are not safe from shattering as the story continues. 

I am officially on the CoHo bandwagon and am on the waitlist on more of her books with my local library.

Read this book. Just do it. You and your broken heart can thank me later.

Review: Love, Theoretically by Ali Hazelwood

Love, Theoretically Book Cover Love, Theoretically
Ali Hazelwood
RomCom / Contemporary Romance
Berkley
June 13, 2023
Audiobook
391
Public Library
August 7 - 15, 2023

The many lives of theoretical physicist Elsie Hannaway have finally caught up with her. By day, she’s an adjunct professor, toiling away at grading labs and teaching thermodynamics in the hopes of landing tenure. By other day, Elsie makes up for her non-existent paycheck by offering her services as a fake girlfriend, tapping into her expertly honed people pleasing skills to embody whichever version of herself the client needs. Honestly, it’s a pretty sweet gig—until her carefully constructed Elsie-verse comes crashing down. Because Jack Smith, the annoyingly attractive and broody older brother of her favorite client, turns out to be the cold-hearted experimental physicist who ruined her mentor’s career and undermined the reputation of theorists everywhere. And that same Jack who now sits on the hiring committee at MIT, right between Elsie and her dream job. Elsie is prepared for an all-out war of scholarly sabotage but…those long, penetrating looks? Not having to be anything other than her true self when she’s with him? Will falling into an experimentalist’s orbit finally tempt her to put her most guarded theories on love into practice?

Review

I have read all three of Ali Hazelwoods published books and this one is probably my least favorite, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it!

Elsie is a theoretical physicist slaving away as an adjunct professor making almost no money, therefor to pay the bills, she has a side gig as a fake girlfriend. Through a service, she can be hired to act as a fake girlfriend. A pathological people pleaser, Elsie is a pro at becoming exactly what someone else wants her to be. 

Enter Jack. He’s the brother of her favorite fake dating client, and also a roadblock to her gaining employment as a tenured professor. Of course the sparks fly! 

This book is far too smutty for me. So, so much smut. But I loved the characters (though Jack is a little too alpha for me) and I loved that some old friends from previous Hazelwood books make an appearance. Elsie’s character growth was great as well, and much of that she has Jack to thank for. 

If you’re into romcom contemporary novels, and you’re okay with a high level of smut, this could be the book for you! 

Review: Off the Map by Trish Doller

Off the Map Book Cover Off the Map
Beck Sisters #3
Trish Doller
Contemporary Romance
St. Martin's Griffin
March 7, 2023
E-ARC / Audiobook
272
NetGalley / Public Library
August 7 - 19, 2023

On the road to love, you don't need a GPS...  Carla Black’s life motto is “here for a good time, not for a long time.” She’s been travelling the world on her own in her vintage Jeep Wrangler for nearly a decade, stopping only long enough to replenish her adventure fund. She doesn’t do love and she doesn’t ever go home. Eamon Sullivan is a modern-day cartographer who creates digital maps. His work helps people find their way, but he’s the one who’s lost his sense of direction. He’s unhappy at work, recently dumped, and his one big dream is stalled out—literally. Fate throws them together when Carla arrives in Dublin for her best friend’s wedding and Eamon is tasked with picking her up from the airport. But what should be a simple drive across Ireland quickly becomes complicated with chemistry-filled detours, unexpected feelings, and a chance at love - if only they choose it.

Review

First of all – I grabbed this book when I first dove back into NetGalley and had zero restraint. I received an email with a few romance novels available and I requested them all. Even though I don’t particularly like this cover. (I think it’s the fact that her hair makes it look like it takes place in the 1920s or something, when it does not.) I do appreciate that the cover is actually a scene from the book. That’s not super common. 

With that out of the way, this book has a lot of heart. Carla has a lot of baggage (despite traveling with very little baggage! Haha) Her father, the only parent she has, is slowly fading away from her, losing his memory to dementia or Alzheimer’s (sorry, I can’t remember which.) He doesn’t want her to watch him suffer, so he tells her to keep traveling—which was their thing—and see as much of the world together as they could. He doesn’t want her to watch him waste away and forget her.

When Carla arrives in Ireland for her BFFs wedding, the grooms brother, Eamon, picks her up. And they almost immediately jump into bed, which is something I absolutely abhor in romance novels. Buuut they won me over in the end. What starts as a fling, becomes so much more once the pair get to know one another.

Eamon is Carla’s opposite. While she’s home, she works as a bartender saving all her money to travel the rest of the time. Eamon has a well paying desk job, and has never given himself the chance to travel, despite his desire to do so. Despite being so opposite, they connect. And experiencing that relationship build up was a joy. And, as with any good book, both of these characters have to face the things in their lives that are pulling them down and make some big choices.

Bonus points for all the descriptions of Ireland. That’s a location on my bucket list, for sure!

So, do I recommend this book? Well, I plan to read books 1 and 2 in the series, so what does that tell you? 😉  

Review: Thank You for Listening by Julia Whelan

Thank You for Listening Book Cover Thank You for Listening
Julia Whelan
Contemporary Romance
Avon
August 2, 2022
Audiobook
432
Public Library
June 8 - 19, 2023

From the author of My Oxford Year, Julia Whelan’s uplifting novel tells the story of a former actress turned successful audiobook narrator—who has lost sight of her dreams after a tragic accident—and her journey of self-discovery, love, and acceptance when she agrees to narrate one last romance novel. For Sewanee Chester, being an audiobook narrator is a long way from her old dreams, but the days of being a star on film sets are long behind her. She’s found success and satisfaction from the inside of a sound booth and it allows her to care for her beloved, ailing grandmother. When she arrives in Las Vegas last-minute for a book convention, Sewanee unexpectedly spends a whirlwind night with a charming stranger. On her return home, Sewanee discovers one of the world’s most beloved romance novelists wanted her to perform her last book—with Brock McNight, the industry’s hottest, most secretive voice. Sewanee doesn’t buy what romance novels are selling—not after her own dreams were tragically cut short—and she stopped narrating them years ago. But her admiration of the late author, and the opportunity to get her grandmother more help, makes her decision for her. As Sewanee begins work on the book, resurrecting her old romance pseudonym, she and Brock forge a real connection, hidden behind the comfort of anonymity. Soon, she is dreaming again, but secrets are revealed, and the realities of life come crashing down around her once more. If she can learn to risk everything for desires she has long buried, she will discover a world of intimacy and acceptance she never believed would be hers.

Review:

Right off the bat, this book was too steamy for my young adult reading ears. I almost quit. I just wasn’t connecting. But I stayed with it and it paid off.

What drew me to this book was that it was a romance about an audiobook narrator who started in romance before moving on to more “serious” books only to be coerced back into the romance audiobook world to narrate the final book of the author who helped her get started in the business.

What I didn’t like was her jumping into bed with a man hours after she met him, but I was able to move past that as the story went on.

I’ll be completely honesty with you, it’s been…a while between listening to this audiobook and writing this review, but I can tell you this, fans of romance will enjoy this one.  

There’s family drama (Sewanee and her dad), overcoming tragedy (right away we learn that Sewanee lost an eye, ending her dream of becoming an A-list actress), and a whirlwind romance with a mystery man and an email/text flirtation with her narration partner. 

This could’ve been just another romance, but those things listed above really made this more.

Review: People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

People We Meet on Vacation Book Cover People We Meet on Vacation
Emily Henry
Contemporary Romance / Women’s Fiction
Berkley
May 11, 2021
Audiobook
364
Public Library
May 31 - June 8, 2023

Two best friends. Ten summer trips. One last chance to fall in love.

Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart—she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown—but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.

Review

It’s a hard thing to determine, but I think this may be my favorite Emily Henry book so far. 

Poppy and Alex met in college. They both grew up in the same small town in Ohio and ended up at the same Chicago college, but that’s where the similarities end. And yet, thanks to a shared road trip home from college that first year, they quickly became the best of friends. 

Just. Friends. 

Bouncing back and forth between present day and the many annual summer trips the pair have taken over the past decade or so, we watch Poppy and Alex’s friendship grow and change. No matter what happens to the other, a bad breakup or a serious illness, the other is always there for them. They have the friendship dreams are made of.

Except something happened two years before the story begins. We don’t find out what that something is until later in the book, but we know that whatever it was, it led to Poppy and Alex not speaking for two whole years. 

Feeling lost in her life and career, Poppy sends a text to Alex and asks him if he’s open to joining her on one more vacation, for old times sake. Turns out, he can’t, his brother is getting married in Palm Springs, but…would she like to come? With that, Poppy winds up in Palm Springs with Alex on the worst vacation ever. From the joke of a rental car to the Air B&N’s AC failing. Basically, if it could go wrong, it will.

But despite all that goes wrong, Poppy is just so happy to have Alex back in her life again. But is their friendship beyond repair? Can they go back to the way things used to be? 

I love these characters. So much. I love all of Emily Henry’s characters, but these two were by far my favorite. Poppy, the wild free-spirit big city girl and Alex, the quiet and reserved home town school teacher/writer. 

Their journey’s, both independently and together, were a joy. I felt like I was there with them on every trip they took. 

This is a 5 star read and I would absolutely read it again. 

Review: Beach Read by Emily Henry

Beach Read Book Cover Beach Read
Emily Henry
Women's Fiction, Contemporary Romance
Berkley
May 19, 2020
Audiobook
358
Public Library
May 6 - 11, 2023

A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters. Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast. They’re polar opposites.

Review

It is my firm believe that Emily Henry is unable to write a bad book. Every book of hers I’ve read (and I’m quickly working my way through her entire backlist) has been varying degrees of amazing. Beach Read is no exception. 

January is in a writing rut. Little does she know, her college nemesis, Agustus, is also in a rut. And fate has thrown them together. 

When January’s father passes away unexpectantly and his secrets come to light, January begins to doubt everything she believed about love. When your lifelong example of a perfect couple experiencing true love turns out to be a sham, how are you supposed to write a believable love story? She’s blocked. 

It’s as January is attempting to clear out the house her father owned in a small town she never knew about, that she reconnects with Agustus. He is also a writer struggling with his latest book. The pair exchange words and a bet is presented. He could never write a book with a happy ending, and she could never write a book where terrible things happen to the characters.

With the bet going strong, the pair take turns opening the others eyes to the romance and the darkness of the world, respectively. 

What I love most about Emily Henry’s books is the characters. No two characters she writes are the same, each one has their own quirks and personality, and I love them all. 

In the end, will January find her passion for romance again, or will her writing take a darker turn? And what about Agustus? And during their bet, will the pair move past their old college rivalry? 

Look, if you read this review you’ve wasted time. Go find a copy of an Emily Henry book. This one, another one, I don’t care. They’re all amazing.  

Review: Sweet Tea at Sunrise by Sherryl Woods

Sweet Tea at Sunrise Book Cover Sweet Tea at Sunrise
The Sweet Magnolias #6
Sherryl Woods
Contemporary Romance
MIRA
April 27, 2010
Audiobook
392
Public Library
May 26 - 31, 2023

Emotionally wounded single mom Sarah Price has come home to Serenity, South Carolina, for a fresh start. With support from her two best friends—the newest generation of the Sweet Magnolias—she can face any crisis. But sometimes a woman needs more than even treasured friends can provide. Sexy Travis McDonald may be exactly what Sarah's battered self-confidence requires. The newcomer is intent on getting Sarah to work at his fledgling radio station…and maybe into his bed, as well. Sarah has learned not to trust sweet words. She'll measure the man by his actions. Is Travis the one to heal her heart? Or will he break it again?

Review

Hands down, this is the best book in the Sweet Magnolia’s series. I was going to quit listening to these books after #4, but #5 was Annie’s story, and I loved her character arc in book #2, so I stuck it out for her book. And it was kind of disappointing and not fully fleshed out. But they introduced Sarah in that book, and I liked her. She seemed like she had a good story to tell. And I was right! 

Sweet Tea at Sunrise was actually sort of a work place romance. When newcomer Travis McDonald shows up in town, he takes a liking to Sarah, who is the waitress at the restaurant he’s been frequenting. He admires her ability to chat so effortlessly with all of her customers, and when he decides to buy the old defunct newsstand and start up a new radio station in Serenity, he knows Sarah would be the perfect voice to put on air.

Sarah, however, has reservations about Travis. As a former pro baseball player, he has a reputation for having his way with women. Having just come out of an emotionally abusive relationship, Sarah is in no place to let herself get hurt. Reluctantly, she accepts his offer to put her on the radio, and she finds herself shocked to realize she’s quite good at the job.

Sparks are flying between the pair, but will Sarah let him in? Will Travis prove to her that he is worthy? This is such a cute book. Solid character growth and plot progression, and, of course, it’s set up to continue with another character from Serenity in book #6… which yes, I will read, but not yet because I have a bunch of library holds all coming in at the same time! 

Review: Home in Carolina by Sherryl Woods

Home in Carolina Book Cover Home in Carolina
Sweet Magnolias #5
Sherryl Woods
Contemporary Romance
Mira
June 28, 2016
Audiobook
375
Public Library
March 28 - 30, 2023

There's no place like home, especially if it's Serenity, South Carolina. For Annie Sullivan, though, the homecoming is bittersweet. She'd always envisioned a life there with her childhood best friend, Tyler Townsend. But Ty's betrayal has cost her the family and the future they'd once planned.

For Ty, losing Annie was heartbreaking. Still, he can't imagine life without the three-year-old son whose mother left him for Ty to raise. Ty wants it all—Annie, his child and the future he'd dreamed about—and he's back home in Serenity to fight for it. But getting Annie to forgive and forget may be the hardest challenge he's ever faced. With the stakes so high, this is one game he can't afford to lose.

Review

The Sweet Magnolia’s is a series of stand alone romance novels with different characters in the small town of Serenity, South Carolina. Home in Carolina is Annie’s story.

We first met Annie in the original trilogy, especially book 2, A Slice of Heaven, which was her mom, Dana Sue’s book. Annie was just a teen then, but now she’s all grown up with a career as a sports therapist working at the spa her mom and her mom’s best friends own and run.

Enter Tyler Townsend. Her childhood best friend-turned love of her life-turned ex. While Annie was in college and Ty was on the road as a big time baseball player, he cheated on her. (He claims they weren’t “officially together” at the time, but I think there was some poor communication back then. I definitely got some Friends “We were on a break!” vibes.)

After suffering an injury, Ty is back in town and doing his physical therapy in the spa’s gym in the evenings. Ty could do his PT anywhere, what he really wants is to win Annie back. That won’t be so easy though, because not only did Ty cheat, he got another woman pregnant and when his son’s mother left the baby outside Ty’s hotel room, he ended up raising the little boy alone. But now his baby mama is also back in the picture, and she wants custody of the little boy she abandoned. When Annie sees Ty with his baby mama, it just opens old woulds and pours salt right inside.

Historically, with this series anyway, I don’t think the author does a great job with sub-plots, but I really liked the subplot in this book. While Annie and Ty are dealing with their drama and feelings for one another, Annie’s childhood friend Sarah is back in town, running from a bad marriage. I loved Sarah’s subplot, I thought it was interwoven with Annie’s perfectly. 

What I didn’t like was how things wrapped up. I glanced at my library app and realized I was in the final minute of the book. I was shocked. Things were settled, but I didn’t feel like they were settled completely. 

If you’ve read the first books in the series, you may as well continue with this one. It wasn’t exceptional, but it was a nice short read. That said, if you will not forgive a character who cheats, don’t bother. Skip this one and move right along.

Review: Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood

Love on the Brain Book Cover Love on the Brain
Ali Hazelwood
Contemporary Romance
Berkley / Sphere
August 23, 2023
Audiobook
368
Public Library
February 27 - March 9, 2023

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Love Hypothesis comes a new STEMinist rom-com in which a scientist is forced to work on a project with her nemesis—with explosive results.

Bee Königswasser lives by a simple code: What would Marie Curie do? If NASA offered her the lead on a neuroengineering project - a literal dream come true - Marie would accept without hesitation. Duh. But the mother of modern physics never had to co-lead with Levi Ward.

Sure, Levi is attractive in a tall, dark, and piercing-eyes kind of way. But Levi made his feelings toward Bee very clear in grad school - archenemies work best employed in their own galaxies far, far away.

But when her equipment starts to go missing and the staff ignore her, Bee could swear she sees Levi softening into an ally, backing her plays, seconding her ideas... devouring her with those eyes. The possibilities have all her neurons firing.

But when it comes time to actually make a move and put her heart on the line, there's only one question that matters: What will Bee Königswasser do?

Review

I absolutely adored “The Love Hypothesis” by Ali Hazelwood. It was utterly enchanting and I had a hard time putting it down. I put a library hold on her second book, “Love on the Brain” almost immediately after I began reading the TLH. 

So, how did this one stand up? While I really enjoyed both books, I think I liked TLH just a little more than LotB. But maybe not! Both books take place in academia, LotB takes place at NASA, with an NIH neuroscientist, Bee, teaming up with a NASA engineer AKA her arch-enemy from grad school, Levi. 

Bee is so excited for the opportunity to work with NASA astronauts but when she finds out who she’ll be working with she’s also annoyed. Levi was so rude to her in grad school, it was obvious he absolutely despised her!

Once Bee actually arrives at NASA, everything starts going wrong, and all signs point to Levi being the source of the problems! Bee is not surprised in the slightest.

Meanwhile, Bee, who is obsessed to an almost annoying degree with Marie Curie, has a Twitter account as Curie and other users tag her and she’ll re-tweet to bring exposure to their questions/complaints—mostly about how hard it is to be a woman in STEM. She uses her account to try to bring awareness to inequality and causes she believes in. It’s there she met a fellow STEM user with whom she became good friends. He is her confidant, the person she complains to about Levi and all her work problems. I love their relationship.

Bee has plenty of quirks (including fainting constantly) and Levi has his own little secrets Bee slowly learns as they’re forced to work together. 

The side characters are also enjoyable to read about, especially Bee’s goth assistant. (In my head, she’s Aubrey Plaza.) 

This book ends with a bang. When everything really goes wrong for Bee, it’s literally everything. I can’t say much more without spoilers.

If you enjoyed TLH, you will like LotB. 

And there’s a cat. (Or is there? 😏)