Review: Four Aunties and a Wedding

Title: Four Aunties and a Wedding (Aunties #2)
Author: Jesse Q. Sutanto
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Mystery
Publisher: Berkley Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: March 29, 2022
Rating: ★★★★★

goodreads-badge-add-plus-71eae69ca0307d077df66a58ec068898

Goodreads Synopsis:

Meddy Chan has been to countless weddings, but she never imagined how her own would turn out. Now the day has arrived, and she can’t wait to marry her college sweetheart, Nathan. Instead of having Ma and the aunts cater to her wedding, Meddy wants them to enjoy the day as guests. As a compromise, they find the perfect wedding vendors: a Chinese-Indonesian family-run company just like theirs. Meddy is hesitant at first, but she hits it off right away with the wedding photographer, Staphanie, who reminds Meddy of herself, down to the unfortunately misspelled name.

Meddy realizes that is where their similarities end, however, when she overhears Staphanie talking about taking out a target. Horrified, Meddy can’t believe Staphanie and her family aren’t just like her own, they are The Family–actual mafia, and they’re using Meddy’s wedding as a chance to conduct shady business. Her aunties and mother won’t let Meddy’s wedding ceremony become a murder scene–over their dead bodies–and will do whatever it takes to save her special day, even if it means taking on the mafia.

The aunties are back, fiercer than ever and ready to handle any catastrophe–even the mafia–in this delightful and hilarious sequel by Jesse Q. Sutanto, author of Dial A for Aunties.

Review:

Meddy Chen has worked at countless weddings, but it’s finally time for her own. Her mother and aunties find a Chinese-Indonesian family-run wedding company for Meddy’s wedding. The family is a mirror image of Meddy’s, including Staphanie, their wedding photographer, who can relate to Meddy’s problems with her family. However, the night before the wedding, Meddy overhears Staphanie talk about taking out a target at the wedding. Staphanie’s family isn’t a wedding vendor. They’re actually mafia, using Meddy’s wedding to murder someone. Meddy’s aunties and mother have to help her figure out who the target is and stop the mafia family before they ruin Meddy’s wedding. 

This story was a funny sequel, though not as funny as the first one. A lot of the humour from the first book came from the unexpected things that the aunties did to cover up the murder. I was expecting them to be outrageous in this story. However, there were some laugh out loud moments. 

I also found this story much more intense than the first one. A lot of the antics that they did to try to figure out who the target was were more serious than funny. I couldn’t see how they were going to get out of this mess. In the end, the explanation made sense to me so I was pleased with what happened. I hope there will be another book in this series because these are such fun characters!

Four Aunties and a Wedding is a great rom com sequel to Dial A for Aunties!

Thank you Berkley Books for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Other books in the series:

Have you read Four Aunties and a Wedding? What did you think of it?

Review: Dukes Do It Better (Misfits of Mayfair #3)

Title: Dukes Do It Better (Misfits of Mayfair #3)
Author: Bethany Bennett
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Publisher: Forever
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback
Release Date: May 24, 2022
Rating: ★★★★★

goodreads-badge-add-plus-71eae69ca0307d077df66a58ec068898

Goodreads Synopsis:

From the series guaranteed to “win the hearts of Regency fans” comes a story of secrets, scandal, and unlikely love that will warm even the coldest of hearts (Publishers Weekly).

After a debut season plagued by scandal, Lady Emma Hardwick is ready to return to London, now with her young son in tow, and make a match. She’s looking for someone respectable. Someone wholly unlike Malachi Harlow, the new Duke of Trenton and former ship captain, whose long hair and tattoos make him decidedly dangerous to her peace of mind.

Malachi would rather be at sea than in a London ballroom. But until he can sort out why the admiralty brought him home, he has to stay landbound. That becomes less of a hardship when he meets the beguiling Lady Emma, whose dimples and easy laughter capture his imagination. When they start receiving threatening notes, they realize that there’s more to their connection than chemistry, and they’ll have to work together to figure out why someone wants to ruin their lives.

Review:

Lady Emma Hardwick had a scandalous history in London, but she’s ready to return for the season, with her young son. She would like to find someone who can give them a secure future, but that may not be Captain Malachi Harlow, the new Duke of Trenton. Emma and Malachi had one night together on a beach months ago, but they’ve been apart ever since. Malachi would rather be on his ship, but after the death of his older brother, he needs to be in London to find his place as Duke. They try to have a short fling during the London season, but they have undeniable feelings for each other. Then they receive some threatening letters that put their relationship at risk. Emma and Mal must decide if their love is strong enough or if they should go their separate ways. 

This story began with the romance already in progress. I liked that Emma and Mal already had strong feelings for each other right from the beginning. It made their story feel bigger than this book, since it had begun off the page. Their chemistry was strong and believable. 

The miscommunication trope was in this story, which I find so frustrating. It made sense and was believable that they would misunderstand certain things in those circumstances, but I still wanted to yell at the characters to just talk it out. Luckily the misunderstanding part didn’t last too long in the story. 

Dukes Do It Better is a great Regency romance!

Thank you Forever Pub for providing a copy of this book.

What to read next:

Never a Duke by Grace Burrowes

Not the Kind of Earl You Marry by Kate Pembrooke

Other books in the series:

  • Any Rogue Will Do
  • West End Earl

Have you read Dukes Do It Better? What did you think of it?

Review: Read Between the Lines (Ms. Right #1)

Title: Read Between the Lines
Author: Rachel Lacey
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, LGBTQ
Publisher: Montlake
Source: Thomas Allen and Son
Format: Paperback
Release Date: December 1, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

goodreads-badge-add-plus-71eae69ca0307d077df66a58ec068898

Goodreads Synopsis:

From award-winning author Rachel Lacey comes a playful romance about a Manhattan bookstore owner and a reclusive author who love to hate—and hate to love—each other.

Books are Rosie Taft’s life. And ever since she took over her mother’s beloved Manhattan bookstore, they’ve become her home too. The only thing missing is her own real-life romance like the ones she loves to read about, and Rosie has an idea of who she might like to sweep her off her feet. She’s struck up a flirty online friendship with lesbian romance author Brie, and what could be more romantic than falling in love with her favorite author?

Jane Breslin works hard to keep her professional and personal lives neatly separated. By day, she works for the family property development business. By night, she puts her steamier side on paper under her pen name: Brie. Jane hasn’t had much luck with her own love life, but her online connection with a loyal reader makes Jane wonder if she could be the one.

When Rosie learns that her bookstore’s lease has been terminated by Jane’s company, romance moves to the back burner. Even though they’re at odds, there’s no denying the sparks that fly every time they’re together. When their online identities are revealed, will Jane be able to write her way to a happy ending, or is Rosie’s heart a closed book?

Review:

Rosie Taft runs the Between the Pages bookstore in the Upper East Side. She loves romance novels, and she’s started an online friendship with her favourite author Brie. However, Brie is a pen name, so Rosie doesn’t know who she is. One day, Rosie gets a letter that she’s being evicted from the store because the building will be torn down. Jane Breslin works for the company who owns the building, and she’s the one who sent the letter to Rosie. But Jane’s secret is that she’s a romance author who uses the pen name Brie. When Jane and Rosie meet, Rosie only sees her as the woman who’s tearing away her store. Their secret online relationship is undeniable, so they have to decide if they can put aside their differences to have their happy ending.

Enemies to lovers is quickly becoming one of my favourite romance tropes. The tension in their “enemy” relationship didn’t last long in the story though, so most of it was a cute romance. It was so adorable to see how their relationship started with a love of books online and then moved to the real world.

I liked the progression of their relationship in this story. There was a lot of tension, with Jane’s secret identity as an author and the fact that Jane’s company had destroyed Rosie’s store, so it was bound to explode at some point. I was really happy with the way it ended though.

Read Between the Lines is an adorable queer romance! I can’t wait to read the next book!

Thank you Thomas Allen and Son for providing a copy of this book.

What to read next:

No Rings Attached by Rachel Lacey

Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur

Other books in the series:

  • No Rings Attached

Have you read Read Between the Lines? What did you think of it?

Review: Games in a Ballroom

Title: Games in a Ballroom
Author: Jentry Flint
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback ARC
Release Date: May 3, 2022
Rating: ★★★★★

goodreads-badge-add-plus-71eae69ca0307d077df66a58ec068898

Goodreads Synopsis:

She was forbidden to love him.
He only wanted her heart.
Can a childhood game bring them together?

London, 1815

Olivia Wilde has resigned herself to never finding a love match. Her father has insisted she marry a man with a title, but the men her father deems acceptable are either boring or are only interested in increasing their own diminishing coffers. With her future looking dismal, Olivia vows to enjoy the last few months of freedom with her childhood friends, including Emerson Latham. His devilish smile and flirtatious teasing stirs up feelings she knows she cannot entertain.

Emerson is struggling to rise to his responsibilities after his father’s death. Though he is still learning his place, one thing he knows for certain is that he wants Olivia Wilde to be his wife. Emerson had long ago fallen in love with her quick wit, beauty, and passionate heart. Yet, without a title, he will never be permitted to court Olivia openly. But he has a plan that may give him a chance to court her in secret.

As the Season kicks off, Emerson proposes a playful game of tag. Olivia’s friends are delighted by the idea, though Olivia is wary. After all, the game must be played in secret as they tag each other at dinners and balls. As the romance builds between Olivia and Emerson, so does the risk of being discovered. Not only are their reputations at stake, so is their safety if they are caught by Olivia’s strict father.

Can their love find a happily ever after before the game ends?

Review:

London, 1815: Olivia Wilde’s father has insisted that she marry a man with a title. Their family has money but no title, so this is her father’s way to bring a title to the family. She dreads the men who her father brings to her at balls. Meanwhile, Olivia likes spending time with her childhood friends Arabella and Emerson Latham. Emerson is struggling with being the head of the family after his father’s death. Though he doesn’t have a title, he wants to marry Olivia. To spend more time with her during balls, without drawing attention to his courting her, he plans an elaborate game of tag between his friends. However, time is ticking for Olivia to choose a husband. She must decide if she’s willing to risk everything for a love match with Emerson. 

This story was a fun look at balls in Regency England. Balls and parties in the Regency period usually seem serious, with specific dances and social rules to be followed. Emerson shook up that idea by playing tag with his friends throughout the parties. There were other moments where Emerson and his friends would play elaborate pranks. I enjoyed this pleasant and lighter side of the Regency period. 

There were some serious moments in this story. Emerson and his family were still grieving for his father. Though it didn’t appear on the page, it was implied that Olivia’s father was abusive. The serious implication of his abuse put some urgency into her finding the right mate, and protecting her mother from his wrath as well. 

Games in a Ballroom is a fun Regency romance. 

Thank you Shadow Mountain for providing a copy of this book.

What to read next:

The Valet’s Secret by Josi S. Kilpack

The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn

Have you read Games in a Ballroom? What did you think of it?

Review: Meet Me in the Margins

Title: Meet Me in the Margins
Author: Melissa Ferguson
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Source: Purchased
Format: Ebook
Release Date: February 15, 2022
Rating: ★★★★★

goodreads-badge-add-plus-71eae69ca0307d077df66a58ec068898

Goodreads Synopsis:

Savannah Cade is a low-level editor at Pennington Publishing, a prestigious publisher producing only the highest of highbrow titles. And while editing the latest edition of The Anthology of Medieval Didactic Poetry may be her day job, she has two secrets she’s hiding.

One: She’s writing a romance novel.

Two: She’s discovered the Book Nook—a secret room in the publishing house where she finds inspiration for her “lowbrow” hobby.

After leaving her manuscript behind one afternoon, she returns to the nook only to discover someone has written notes in the margins. Savannah’s first response to the criticism is defensive, but events transpire that force her to admit that she needs the help of this shadowy editor after all. As the notes take a turn for the romantic, and as Savannah’s madcap life gets more complicated than ever, she uses the process of elimination to identify her mysterious editor—only to discover that what she truly wants and what she should want just might not be the same. Melissa Ferguson’s latest—a love letter to books, readers, and romance—will leave fans laughing out loud and swooning in the same breath.

Review:

Savannah Cade is an acquisitions editor at the high-brow Pennington Press which publishes literary fiction and nonfiction. She has two secrets. The first is that she’s writing a romance novel under the pen name Holly Ray. The second is that she’s found a hidden room in the attic of her office. When she sends her manuscript to an editor, she’s given 44 days to improve it before that editor retires. Savannah leaves the manuscript in her secret room one day, and comes back to find that someone has made editorial notes. At first she’s offended at the criticism, but when she realizes these notes the ones from the editor, she decides to take the advice. As Savannah improves this manuscript, she tries to figure out the identity of her mystery editor. 

This was such a fun story. I loved the writing aspects of it. Savannah struggled with her manuscript in many of the same ways I have in the past. It’s hard to take criticism, but with the right editor, it can really make a difference. 

This was a slow romance. There wasn’t really any romance until the end. However, it was fun to see Savannah and her mystery editor slowly get closer throughout the anonymous editing process. 

Meet Me in the Margins is a fun bookish romance!

What to read next:

The Cul-de-Sac War by Melissa Ferguson

The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer

Have you read Meet Me in the Margins? What did you think of it?

Blog Tour Excerpt: Summer on the Island

Title: Summer on the Island
Author: Brenda Novak
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Publisher: Mira Books
Release Date: April 5, 2022

goodreads-badge-add-plus-71eae69ca0307d077df66a58ec068898

Goodreads Synopsis:

A summer of healing, friendship, love…and a secret that could change everything.

After the death of her US senator father, Marlow Madsen travels to the small island off the coast of Florida where she spent summers growing up to help her mother settle the family estate. For Marlow, the trip is a chance to reconnect after too long apart. It’s also the perfect escape to help her feel grounded again — one she’s happy to share with friends Aida and Claire, who are hoping to hit reset on their lives, too.

A leisurely beachfront summer promises the trio of women the opportunity to take deep healing breaths and explore new paths. But when her father’s will reveals an earth-shattering secret that tarnishes his impeccable reputation and everything she thought she knew about her family, Marlow finds herself questioning her entire childhood — and aspects of her future. Fortunately, her friends, and the most unlikely love interest she could imagine, prove that happiness can be found no matter what — as long as the right people are by your side.

Excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

Teach Island looked exactly the same as Marlow Madsen remembered it. Since the entire world had been disrupted by the pandemic, the comfort and familiarity of this place nearly brought tears to her eyes. Part of that was how strongly she associated it with her father. John “Tiller” Madsen, who’d gotten his nickname because of his love for sailing, had died a month ago. But the island had long been his escape from the rat race of Washington, DC, where he’d served as a United States senator for thirty years.

“I can’t believe I’m back. Finally,” Marlow said as she rolled down the passenger window to let in some fresh air.

Part of the archipelago of forty-five hundred islands off the coast of Florida, Teach was only seven square miles. Marlow loved its homey, small-town atmosphere. She also loved its white sand beaches and its motley collection of bars, restaurants, bait-and-tackle stores and gift shops, most of which, at least in the older section where they were now, had kitschy decor. Because the island was named after Edward Teach, or Blackbeard, one of the most famous pirates to operate in this part of the world in the early eighteenth century, there was pirate stuff all over. A black skull-and-crossbones flag hung on a pole in front of the most popular bar, which was made to look like a colonial-era tavern and was named Queen Anne’s Revenge after Blackbeard’s ship.

In addition to the Blackbeard memorabilia, there was the regular sea-themed stuff—large anchors or ship’s wheels stuck in the ground here and there, fishing nets draped from the eaves of stores and cafés, and lobsters, crabs and other ocean creatures painted on wooden or corrugated metal sides. Her parents had a house in Georgia, a true Southern mansion, as well as their condo in Virginia for when her father had to be in Washington. But this was where they’d always spent the summers.

Now that Tiller was gone, her mother was talking about selling the other residences and moving here permanently. Marlow hated the sense of loss that inspired the forever change, but since Seaclusion—her father’s name for the beach house—had always been her favorite of their homes, she was also relieved that her mother planned to keep it. This was the property she hoped to inherit one day; she couldn’t imagine it ever being out of the family. And after what so many people had experienced with the fires in California, where she’d been living since she graduated college, and all the hurricanes in recent years that had plagued Florida, she had reason to be grateful the house was still standing.

“Sounds like you’ve missed the place.” Reese Cantwell, who’d been sent to pick up her and her two friends, had grown even taller since Marlow had seen him last. His hands and feet no longer looked disproportionate to the rest of his body. She remembered that his older brother, Walker, had also reminded her of a pup who hadn’t quite grown into his large paws and wondered what Walker was doing these days.

“It’s a welcome sight for all three of us,” Aida Trahan piped up from the back. “Three months by the sea should change everything.”

Claire Fernandez was also in the back seat, both of them buried beneath the luggage that wouldn’t fit in the trunk. They’d met at LAX and flown into Miami together. “Here’s hoping,” she said. “Even if it doesn’t, I’m looking forward to putting my toes in the water and my butt in the sand.”

“You’ll get plenty of opportunities for that here,” Reese said.

Claire needed the peace and tranquility and a chance to heal. She’d lost her home in the fires that’d ravaged Malibu last August. To say nothing of the other dramas that’d plagued her this past year.

Marlow looked over at their driver. Apparently, since her father’s death, Reese had been helping out around the estate, in addition to teaching tennis at the club. His mother, Rosemary, had been their housekeeper since well before he was born—since before Marlow was even born. Marlow was grateful for the many years of service and loyalty Rosemary had given the family, especially now that Tiller had died. It was wonderful to have someone she trusted watch out for her mother. Eileen had multiple sclerosis, which sometimes made it difficult for her to get around.

“Looks as casual as I was hoping it would be.” Claire also lowered her window as Reese brought them to the far side of the island and closer to the house. Situated on the water, Seaclusion had its own private beach, as well as a three-bedroom guesthouse and a smaller apartment over the garage where Rosemary had lived before moving into the main house after Tiller died so she could be available if Eileen needed anything during the night.

“There are some upscale shops and restaurants where we’re going, if you’re in the mood for spending money,” Marlow told them.

“When have I not been in the mood to shop?” Aida joked.

“You don’t have access to Dutton’s money anymore,” Claire pointed out. “You need to be careful.”

Claire had lost almost everything. She had reason to be cautious. Aida wasn’t in the best situation, either, and yet she shrugged off the concern. “I’ll be okay. I didn’t walk away empty-handed, thanks to my amazing divorce attorney.”

Marlow always felt uncomfortable when Dutton came up, and sometimes couldn’t believe it wasn’t more uncomfortable for them. The way Claire and Aida had met was remarkable, to say the least. It was even more remarkable that they’d managed to become friends. But Marlow twisted around and smiled as though she didn’t feel the sudden tension so she could acknowledge Aida’s compliment. Although Marlow was only thirty-four, she’d been a practicing attorney for ten years. She’d jumped ahead two grades when she was seven, which had enabled her to finish high school early and start college at sixteen. A knack for difficult negotiations had led her to a law degree and from there she’d gone into family law, something that had worked out well for her. Her practice had grown so fast she’d considered hiring another attorney to help with the caseload.

She probably would’ve done that, if not for the pandemic, which had shut down every aspect of her life except work, making her realize that becoming one of the best divorce attorneys in Los Angeles wasn’t everything it was cracked up to be. No matter how much money she made, she didn’t enjoy dealing with people who were so deeply upset, and the richer, more famous the client, the more acrimonious the divorce. She hoped she’d never have to wade through another one. If a marriage worked, it could be wonderful. Her parents had proved that. But after what she’d witnessed with other people since passing the bar, she was beginning to believe Tiller and Eileen were the exception.

“All I did was make Dutton play fair,” Marlow said. “But at least you have some money you can use to get by while you decide what to do from here.”

“I liked being a trophy wife,” Aida grumbled. “I’m not sure I’m cut out for anything else.”

Like so many in LA, she’d been an aspiring actress at one time, but her career had never taken off. After she’d married Dutton, she’d spent more time at the tennis club, where she and Marlow had met, than trying out for any auditions.

“Don’t say that,” Marlow told her. “You can do a lot more than look pretty.”

Claire remained conspicuously quiet. She’d been subdued since they left, so subdued that Marlow was beginning to wonder if something was wrong.

“We’ll see.” Aida shrugged off the compliment as readily as she had the warning. “But before I have to make the really hard decisions, I deserve a break. So where’s the expensive part of the island again?”

Reese chuckled. “We’re almost there.”

“We’ll be able to play tennis, too,” Marlow told her. “The club’s only a mile from the house. And Reese is our resident pro.”

“No way! You play tennis?” Aida’s voice revealed her enthusiasm.

“Every day,” he replied.

“Can he beat you?” Aida asked Marlow.

“He was just a kid the last time we played, and he could take me about half the time even then. I doubt he’ll have any problem now.”

“I can see why you talked us out of renting a car,” Claire said, finally entering the conversation. “Considering the size of this place…”

“Like I told you before,” Marlow said, “most people walk or ride a bike.”

“You only need a car if you’re going off island,” Reese chimed in. He was driving them in Eileen’s Tesla.

Marlow was anxious to ask how her mother was doing but decided to hold off. If she questioned him while her friends were in the car, she’d probably get the standard “Fine.” But she wasn’t looking for a perfunctory answer. She wanted the truth. What he’d seen and heard recently. He was the one who’d been here. Marlow hadn’t been able to visit, not even when her father died. Thanks to the pandemic, they hadn’t been able to give him the funeral he deserved, either.

Reese glanced into the rearview mirror. “Are the three of you staying all summer?”

Marlow suspected he was hoping Aida, in particular, would be on the island for a while. Although Aida was thirty-six, fourteen years older than he was, she was a delicate blonde with big blue eyes. The way she dressed and accessorized, she turned heads, especially male heads, wherever she went.

“We are,” Aida said, and the subtle hint of flirtation in her voice told Marlow that she’d picked up on Reese’s interest.

“We have some big decisions to make in the coming months,” Marlow said, hoping to give Reese a hint that this wasn’t the opportunity he might think it was. Aida was on the rebound. She needed to put her life back together, not risk her heart on a summer fling.

“What kind of decisions?” he asked, naturally curious.

Claire answered for her. “Like what we’re going to do from here on. We’re all starting over.”

Reese’s eyebrows shot up as he looked at Marlow. “Meaning…what? You won’t be returning to LA?”

“I’m not sure,” she said. “I sold my condo and closed my practice before I left, just in case.”

His jaw dropped. “Really? But your mom said you’re one of the most highly sought-after attorneys in Los Angeles.”

No doubt her mother talked about her all the time. She’d heard a few things about Reese’s family, too, including the fact that he hadn’t finished school because he’d let partying come between him and a degree. But Marlow didn’t know Reese that well. She’d spent more time with his much older brother, Walker, when they were growing up. “It’s not that it wasn’t working out. It was. I’m just…done with divorce.”

He turned down the rap music he’d had playing since they got in. “Have you told your mother?”

“Not yet. I was afraid she’d try to talk me out of it. I know it’s sort of crazy to walk away from what I had going. Not many lawyers would do that. But after being quarantined for so long, working with people who almost always behaved their worst, I’m finished suffering through other people’s emotional turmoil.”

“Can’t say as I blame you,” Aida agreed. “I feel so bad about how Dutton treated you.”

Aida’s ex hadn’t just called Marlow names. He’d gotten her cell phone number from Aida, claiming he wanted to negotiate directly, and then proceeded to threaten her on more than one occasion. “We can all be glad Dutton’s out of our lives.”

“Amen,” Aida said, but again Claire said nothing.

They reached the gap in the shrubbery that signaled the beginning of her parents’ drive, and Reese turned into Seaclusion.

“Look at this!” Aida exclaimed. “It’s a whole compound.”

Reese parked in the detached four-car garage. “Welcome home,” he said with a grin.

Marlow had her carry-on with her, but when she went to the trunk to get the rest of her luggage, Reese insisted he’d bring it in.

She thanked him, put her bag down and, eager to see her mother, hurried to the house.

Rosemary was waiting on the stoop, where her mother would normally be. “It’s good to see you, Marlow.”

“Thanks, Rosemary. It’s good to see you, too. Is Mom okay?”

At fifty-five, Rosemary was five years younger than Eileen and tall and thin, like her two sons. They’d gotten their good looks from her—didn’t resemble their father at all, who wasn’t around anymore. Marlow could recall him showing up at the Atlanta house drunk and bellowing for Rosemary to “get her ass home.” It wasn’t any surprise to Marlow that the relationship hadn’t lasted. He’d abandoned the family when Reese was four or five.

“She’s fine. A little tired.” Although Rosemary smiled, she seemed anxious and uptight herself. Was it because of Eileen? Was she worse off than Marlow had been told?

“Is it anything to be concerned about?” Marlow pressed.

“No. She was so excited to see you that she couldn’t sleep last night. That’s all. She’s in her room resting if you want to go in.”

Anxious to reassure herself that nothing more serious was going on, Marlow introduced Aida and Claire to Rosemary, and while Rosemary led them to the guesthouse, where Reese was taking the luggage, Marlow went inside. “Mom?” she called as she moved through the living room.

“In here!” her mother called back.

Marlow’s stomach knotted as she reached the master bedroom and swung the door open wider. It was a beautiful day outside, not a cloud in the sky, yet the shades were drawn, making it dark and cool.

As soon as she reached the bed, she bent to kiss her mother’s paper-thin cheek. “I’m so glad to see you again.”

Eileen’s hands clutched her wrists. “Let me look at you. It’s been too long.”

“Who could’ve guessed a pandemic would come between us? That wasn’t something I even considered when I went so far from home.”

Once her eyes adjusted to the light, Marlow could see that the room hadn’t changed. Her father’s watch glimmered on the dresser, his slippers waited under the side chair and his clothes hung neatly in the closet as though he might walk through the door at any moment. Her mother hadn’t done anything with his personal property. That meant Marlow would have to deal with it, but she was actually grateful Eileen had waited. Touching his belongings was their only remaining connection to him, their only chance to say goodbye, and now they could do that together.

“Are you hungry?” her mother asked. “Rosemary made tea for you and your friends.”

Marlow sat on the edge of the bed. Eileen had thick dark hair and bottle green eyes—both of which Marlow had inherited—and looked good despite being so ill. But she was pale today and had lost significant weight. “That sounds wonderful,” Marlow said.

“I thought your friends might enjoy it. And I know how much you like clotted cream. When we were in London with your father several years ago, that was all you wanted to eat.”

The twinkle in Eileen’s eyes made Marlow feel slightly encouraged, until her mother winced as she adjusted her position. Eileen had to be feeling terrible, or she’d be up and around and asking to meet Aida and Claire.

“Are you having another attack?” Marlow asked. Her mother’s disease came in waves, or what they called “attacks.” Sometimes she grew worse for no clear reason—she didn’t do or eat anything different—and then she improved just as mysteriously. Although the steady decrease in her functionality attested to the fact that each attack took a little more from her…

“I must be. But don’t worry about me. It’s…more of the same. How was your flight?”

The lump that swelled in Marlow’s throat made it difficult to swallow. She’d already lost her beloved father. Was she going to lose her mother this year, too? The probability of Eileen’s dying had hung over their heads ever since she was diagnosed twenty-six years ago, so it’d come as a total shock that Tiller had died first. He’d never been sick a day in his life—until he got shingles. Then he’d spent five weeks in bed and simply didn’t wake up one morning. According to the autopsy, a blood clot had formed and traveled to his lungs.

“The flight was crowded and miserable,” she answered. “But aren’t all flights that way?”

“You should’ve come first class.”

Marlow thought about her decision to sell her place and close her practice but decided not to mention it until later. Eileen’s father had been a steel baron; she’d married into money, as well. She’d never known what it was like to struggle. Marlow hadn’t, either, but she was out in the world and much more cognizant of the difficulties faced by those who didn’t have quite as much. “I didn’t want to ask Aida and Claire to spend the extra money. You know what happened to Claire.”

“Yes. The poor thing. I’m so glad she had insurance to cover the rebuild. The fires in California have been awful. I’ve seen them on the news.” Eileen lifted her head to look toward the door. “Where are your friends?”

“Rosemary’s helping them get settled in the guesthouse.”

“I can’t wait to meet them.”

“They’re grateful to you for letting them come home with me. But with the way you’re feeling, maybe I should’ve come alone—”

“No, no,” she broke in. “They both needed a place to recoup, as you said. And having them here won’t hurt me. New friends might help fill the terrible void I’ve felt since Tiller…” Her voice cracked.

Marlow squeezed her hand, wondering if it was the emotional toll of losing Tiller that’d gotten the best of Eileen, rather than MS. “I miss him, too,” she whispered.

Her mother brought Marlow’s hand to her cheek. “It’ll be good to have you here for practical reasons, too. I think there’s something that has to be done with the estate.”

“What’s that?” Marlow asked in surprise.

“I don’t know. Samuel Lefebvre’s been calling me, trying to get me to come meet with him, but I told him you’re the one to talk to. I can’t face it.”

Sam was her father’s attorney and had been since Marlow could remember. He’d written her a character reference when she applied to Stanford, since he’d graduated from there himself, which was how she’d landed on the opposite coast. “I can handle it. It shouldn’t be hard. Most, if not all, of Dad’s estate will pass directly to you. Maybe he left me a few trinkets.”

“I’m sure he did. But Sam acts as though there’s business at hand, so he must need something.”

“You know Sam. He’s fastidious, always in a hurry to wrap things up. It won’t be a problem.”

A ghost of her mother’s former smile curved her lips. “You’re so capable. You’ve always been capable—just like your father.”

Marlow heard Rosemary come into the house with Aida and Claire. “Should I wait to introduce my friends to you until after we eat?”

“Maybe that would be best,” Eileen said. “It’ll give me the chance to rest a bit longer.”

“Of course. There’s no rush.”

“I can’t wait to spend more time with you. It’s comforting to know we have the whole summer.”

“It is.” Marlow hugged her mother, breathing in the welcome scent of her perfume before going out to join Aida and Claire in the dining room, where Rosemary had put a tea caddy filled with small sandwiches, crackers with herb spread, homemade scones and chocolate-covered strawberries. The clotted cream was in small dishes at the side of each plate.

“Looks delicious. I don’t think anyone in the UK could do it better.”

“Then I did it right,” Rosemary joked.

When Marlow sat down, she halfway expected Reese to join them, since she knew he was on the property, but he didn’t come in. As generously as her family had treated Rosemary and her boys, there’d always been a distinction between the family and the help. Marlow supposed that, in many situations like this, it was inevitable: there was a natural hierarchy when it came to employment.

“Reese has gotten so tall,” she remarked to Rosemary, helping herself to a cucumber-and-cream-cheese sandwich.

“He’s a handsome man,” Aida said.

Marlow shot her friend a warning look but didn’t dare say anything in front of Reese’s mother, who seemed to take the compliment at face value. “He’s six-four, as tall as his brother now,” she said proudly.

“What’s Walker been doing these days?” Marlow asked.

Rosemary used a towel to hold the hot teapot with both hands. “He’s living here on the island now.”

Marlow paused, her sandwich halfway to her mouth. “He left Atlanta to come here permanently? When?”

“As soon as he heard about COVID. Poor guy’s always felt he needs to be there for me and Reese,” she said with an affectionate chuckle. “I guess it’s no wonder since, growing up, he had to be the man of the house.”

Eileen hadn’t mentioned that Walker had moved to Teach, but at thirty-six, he probably didn’t come to the house much. “What part of the island does he live on?” Marlow asked. “He’s not staying above the garage, is he?”

“No, Reese is there now. Walker bought the cottage down by the cove. It’s not very big, but the setting is magnificent. I’ve never seen prettier sunsets than the ones I see from his front porch.”

Marlow liked the cove, too. The beach there was small and completely cut off from the other beaches, so it was often overlooked by tourists, which made it feel almost as private as the beach her family owned. “What does he do for a living?”

“He’s the chief of police.”

Marlow sat taller. “The chief of police?”

Rosemary shrugged off her surprise. “It sounds loftier than it is. There are only two other officers on the force.”

“But…how’d that happen? Last I heard, he was a street cop in Atlanta.” She remembered someone telling her that a friend had talked him into going into the academy. That had been a while ago—probably a decade—but Walker’s ascent still seemed quick.

“This is your oldest son?” Claire interrupted.

“It is,” Rosemary replied before answering Marlow. “He didn’t want to be separated from me or his brother during the pandemic, so he kept checking for jobs on the island—and he found one.”

“The chief of police quit or was fired or something?” Claire asked.

“No, Walker got on as a regular officer first,” Rosemary clarified. “But when the chief retired, he took over.”

“Do you have a daughter-in-law, too?” Aida asked. “Or any grandbabies?”

“Not yet,” Rosemary replied. “I bug Walker about finding a wife all the time, but he just laughs it off and tells me you can’t hurry love.”

“Maybe Reese will be the one to give you grandbabies,” Aida said.

“He’s got some growing up to do first,” Rosemary said and headed into the kitchen.

Marlow and Claire both gave Aida a pointed stare.

“What?” she said, lifting her well-manicured hands as though she’d done nothing wrong. “He’s twenty-two. It’s not as though he’s underage.”

Rosemary reappeared before they could say anything further. “Walker’s here,” she announced. “I needed a few things for the soup I’m making for dinner tonight, and he said he’d grab them for me.”

A knock sounded on the door. After Rosemary opened it, Marlow could hear Walker say, “Here you go. You’ll find some of those dark chocolate–covered almonds you like in the bag, too.”

Marlow could see a slice of Rosemary as she accepted the sack he handed her. “Thank you.”

“No problem. I’ll see you later.”

“Walker?” his mother said, calling him back. “Marlow’s home if you’d like to come in and say hello.”

There was a slight pause, which indicated he wasn’t thrilled with the idea. Marlow could understand why. They hadn’t exactly been close, at least not during their teenage years. But he eventually said, “Fine. But just for a minute. I have to get back to work.”

Excerpted from Summer on the Island by Brenda Novak, Copyright © 2022 by Brenda Novak, Inc. Published by MIRA Books.

About the author:

Brenda Novak, a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author, has penned over sixty novels. She is a five-time nominee for the RITA Award and has won the National Reader’s Choice, the Bookseller’s Best, the Bookbuyer’s Best, and many other awards. She also runs Brenda Novak for the Cure, a charity to raise money for diabetes research (her youngest son has this disease). To date, she’s raised $2.5 million. For more about Brenda, please visit www.brendanovak.com.

Review: Love, Comment, Subscribe

Title: Love, Comment, Subscribe
Author: Cathy Yardley
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Publisher: Montlake
Source: Thomas Allen and Son
Format: Paperback
Release Date: October 1, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

goodreads-badge-add-plus-71eae69ca0307d077df66a58ec068898

Goodreads Synopsis:

Back in high school, Lily Wang wanted to be popular, but she considered herself lucky to be part of a tight group of oddballs and honors students called the Nerd Herd. Now, at twenty-eight, she feels like she’s finally on the cusp of succeeding as a beauty influencer—if she can hit five million subscribers, brands will take notice and she could get her own makeup line.

Fellow Nerd Herd alum Tobin Bui has had a lot of success as a YouTube gamer. But the road to online stardom has been rocky. First, he disappointed his parents by dropping out of college, and now, after years of pranks, skits, and playthroughs, he’s struggling to come up with new content to satisfy his ever-growing fan base. His agents say he needs cross-audience appeal, a new twist.

When Nerd Herd frenemy Lily approaches Tobin about teaming up to do a video to bolster her brand and reinvigorate his, he agrees. But when their first collab video goes viral, their relationship heats up too. With the whole internet watching, will these two former misfits finally realize they’re perfect together?

Review:

When she was in high school, Lily Wang didn’t want to be a member of the nerdy, overachievers called the Nerd Herd. She wanted to be friends with the popular kids. Now, at twenty-eight, she still has the same feelings. She’s a beauty Youtuber who wants to have the most followers so that she will get more opportunities with beauty brands. When her childhood frenemy Tobin goes viral with a stunt on Youtube, Lily wonders if she could collaborate with him to gain some more subscribers. Tobin Bui has had a lot of success on Youtube, but now he is struggling to come up with original ideas. He agrees to team up with Lily, and they quickly go viral. Their tension on the screen translates to romantic tension in real life, and they wonder if they were meant to be together.

This was a fun rom com! As an influencer, on a much smaller scale than Lily and Tobin, I could relate to their desire to grow their brands. It’s easy to get caught up in wanting to grow your subscriber or follower count, especially when that comes with more paid opportunities. Lily was just focused on becoming as popular as she could, which isn’t the point of being an influencer, but she ended up teaming up with Tobin and got a great relationship out of it.

There were quite a few laugh out loud funny parts in this story. Tobin played some jokes on Lily in his videos. I was shocked at some of them, especially the first one. These were fun to read about, but I wouldn’t want them to happen to me in real life.

Love, Comment, Subscribe is a fun rom com!

Thank you Thomas Allen and Son for providing a copy of this book.

What to read next:

Gouda Friends by Cathy Yardley

Instamom by Chantel Guertin

Other books in the series:

  • Gouda Friends

Have you read Love, Comment, Subscribe? What did you think of it?

Blog Tour Review: A Forgery of Roses

Title: A Forgery of Roses
Author: Jessica S. Olson
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Mystery
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: March 29, 2022
Rating: ★★★★★

goodreads-badge-add-plus-71eae69ca0307d077df66a58ec068898

Goodreads Synopsis:

Myra Whitlock has a gift. One many would kill for.

She’s an artist whose portraits alter people’s real-life bodies, a talent she must hide from those who would kidnap, blackmail, and worse in order to control it. Guarding that secret is the only way to keep her younger sister safe now that their parents are gone.

But one frigid night, the governor’s wife discovers the truth and threatens to expose Myra if she does not complete a special portrait that would resurrect the governor’s dead son. Desperate, Myra ventures to his legendary stone mansion.

Once she arrives, however, it becomes clear the boy’s death was no accident. Someone dangerous lurks within these glittering halls. Someone harboring a disturbing obsession with portrait magic.

Myra cannot do the painting until she knows what really happened, so she turns to the governor’s older son, a captivating redheaded poet. Together, they delve into the family’s most shadowed affairs, racing to uncover the truth before the secret Myra spent her life concealing makes her the killer’s next victim.

From Sing Me Forgotten author Jessica S. Olson comes a gothic fantasy murder mystery perfect for fans of Kerri Maniscalco and Erin A. Craig.

Review:

Myra Whitlock is a Prodigy. That means she can paint someone’s portrait and then use it to alter their appearance in some way. Under the current Governor, Prodigies are illegal. Myra’s Mom, who was a Prodigy too, and her dad have disappeared. Myra is left to look after her ill sister on her own. When the Governor’s wife approaches Myra with a proposition that will give her a huge paycheck, she can’t resist. The Governor’s wife wants Myra to paint her son, who has secretly died, and bring him back to life. Myra has never brought anyone back to life, but it isn’t as easy as fixing a small injury on a portrait. She discovers a murder mystery which puts her life, and her sister’s life, at risk. 

This book reminded me so much of Stalking Jack the Ripper and The Picture of Dorian Gray, two of my favourite books. The idea that a portrait can alter a person’s real appearance is fascinating. Pictures can show things on a person that they don’t notice themselves. This talent that Myra had was useful at times but also dangerous because it can harm a person as well as heal them. 

I was completely shocked at the ending. The final twist was not what I expected at all. There were hints at the end of the possibility of a sequel and I hope there will be one because I loved this book!

A Forgery of Thorns is an exciting fantasy mystery!

Thank you Inkyard Press for providing a copy of this book.

What to read next:

Sing Me Forgotten by Jessica S. Olson

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

About the author:

Jessica S. Olson claims New Hampshire as her home but has somehow found herself in Texas, where she spends most of her time singing praises to the inventor of the air conditioner. When she’s not hiding from the heat, she’s corralling her four wild—but adorable—children, dreaming up stories about kissing and murder and magic, and eating peanut butter by the spoonful straight from the jar. She earned a bachelor’s in English with minors in editing and French, which essentially means she spent all of her university time reading and eating French pastries. She is the author of Sing Me Forgotten (2021) and A Forgery of Roses (2022).

Have you read A Forgery of Roses? What did you think of it?

Blog Tour Review: Savvy Sheldon Feels Good as Hell

Title: Savvy Sheldon Feels Good as Hell
Author: Taj McCoy
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Publisher: MIRA
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: March 22, 2022
Rating: ★★★★

goodreads-badge-add-plus-71eae69ca0307d077df66a58ec068898

Goodreads Synopsis:

A delicious debut rom-com about a plus-size sweetheart who gets a full-life makeover after a brutal breakup.

Savvy Sheldon spends a lot of time tiptoeing around the cracks in her life: her high-stress and low-thanks job, her clueless boyfriend and the falling-apart kitchen she inherited from her beloved grandma—who taught her how to cook and how to love people by feeding them. But when Savvy’s world starts to crash down around her, she knows it’s time for some renovations.

Starting from the outside in, Savvy tackles her crumbling kitchen, her relationship with her body, her work–life balance (or lack thereof) and, last but not least, her love life. The only thing that doesn’t seem to require effort is her ride-or-die squad of friends. But as any home-reno-show junkie can tell you, something always falls apart during renovations. First, Savvy passes out during hot yoga. Then it turns out that the contractor she hires is the same sexy stranger she unintentionally offended by judging based on appearances. Worst of all, Savvy can’t seem to go anywhere without tripping over her ex and his latest “upgrade.” Savvy begins to realize that maybe she should’ve started her renovations the other way around: beginning with how she sees herself before building a love that lasts.

Review:

Savvy Sheldon is used to helping everyone in her life, but she doesn’t look after herself. Once her boyfriend breaks up for her because of her appearance, Savvy realizes it’s time for a change. She works hard at her job as an underwriter to get a promotion. She starts working out with her friends and goes to cooking classes which she loves. Savvy finally decides to give her house a much-needed renovation after meeting Spencer, a hot contractor. Savvy tries to excel at each of these new activities in her life, but then she starts to burn out. Her original motivation was to get revenge for her boyfriend breaking up with her, but then she realizes she has to make these positive changes to improve her lifestyle. 

This was a fun story! Savvy was a strong woman but she didn’t always realize that. She started out wanting revenge for her boyfriend, but she quickly realized that she didn’t want him back so she wanted to improve herself for her own good. Savvy had a great support system behind her, with friends who stood by her side and family who wanted the best for her. 

Though there was some romance, that wasn’t the main part of the story. This was almost a coming-of-age story for an adult because Savvy learned to improve her life throughout the story. She changed the way she ate, worked, had fun, and worked out, all things that improved her overall life. I liked that this was a revenge story that turned into Savvy improving her life for herself, not an awful ex-boyfriend. 

Savvy Sheldon Feels Good as Hell is an empowering rom com!

Thank you MIRA for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

Intercepted by Alexa Martin

About the author:

Oakland native and attorney Taj McCoy is committed to writing stories championing black and biracial women of color, plus-sized protagonists, and characters with a strong sense of sisterhood and familial bonds. When she’s not writing, she may be on Twitter boosting other marginalized writers, trying to zen out in yoga, sharing recipes on her website, or cooking private supper club meals for close friends.

Have you read Savvy Sheldon Feels Good as Hell? What did you think of it?

Review: A Lady’s Formula for Love (The Secret Scientists of London #1)

Title: A Lady’s Formula for Love (The Secret Scientists of London #1)
Author: Elizabeth Everett
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Publisher: Berkley
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: February 9, 2021
Rating: ★★★★

goodreads-badge-add-plus-71eae69ca0307d077df66a58ec068898

Goodreads Synopsis:

What is a Victorian lady’s formula for love? Mix one brilliant noblewoman and her enigmatic protection officer. Add in a measure of danger and attraction. Heat over the warmth of humor and friendship, and the result is more than simple chemistry—it’s elemental.

Lady Violet Hughes is keeping secrets. First, she founded a clandestine sanctuary for England’s most brilliant female scientists. Second, she is using her genius on a confidential mission for the Crown. But the biggest secret of all? Her feelings for protection officer Arthur Kneland.

Solitary and reserved, Arthur learned the hard way to put duty first. But the more time he spends in the company of Violet and the eccentric club members, the more his best intentions go up in flames. Literally.

When a shadowy threat infiltrates Violet’s laboratories, endangering her life and her work, scientist and bodyguard will find all their theories put to the test—and learn that the most important discoveries are those of the heart.

Review:

Lady Violet Hughes is a young widow who used her status to form a society for female scientists. It’s a secret society because the rest of the population wouldn’t approve of women being scientists. Violet is able to use her secret talents on a mission for the Queen. However, things start going wrong at the society. Fires are started, things blow up, and someone is trying to steal her work. Her stepson hires counter-assassin Arthur Kneland to protect Violet from these attacks. Arthur has his own secret history that has affected the way he looks at his job and his life. He wants to get through this last job of protecting Violet and then he can retire to the country. Neither of them were expecting to fall for each other, which throws off their plans for the future.

In this story, Violet organizes a secret society of female scientists. It’s difficult to imagine a world where women have to hide their intelligence. There were some female scientists during the Victorian era, but they weren’t common.

This book explored gender conformities and relationships. Since the women wanted to practice science, they had to do it in secret. They had strained relationships with the men in their lives because of their desire to do more in life. One woman was oppressed and abused by her father. Violet felt like she couldn’t be the true person she was when she was married to her much older husband. Luckily, they did have some men, like Arthur and Violet’s stepson, who encouraged the women to pursue their dreams.

A Lady’s Formula for Love is a great Victorian romance.

Thank you Berkley for providing a copy of this book.

What to read next:

A Perfect Equation by Elizabeth Everett

Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore

Other books in the series:

  • The Perfect Equation

Have you read A Lady’s Formula for Love? What did you think of it?