PositiveBookPageif you’re expecting an absurdist comedy in which everything is played for laughs, you’re in for a surprise. While Beth O’Leary’s The No-Show is frequently funny and playful, it’s never silly or frothy. O’Leary digs deep into the stories of these women: They’re three-dimensional, thoughtful, challenging people dealing with real problems and real feelings that are absolutely no joking matter ... Each woman gets only a third of the book to herself, but O’Leary manages to convey intimate knowledge of each woman and her loved ones . . . with one exception. Joseph remains something of a cipher. O’Leary never steps inside his head to understand what he’s thinking or feeling. O’Leary cleverly uses literary smoke and mirrors to keep Joseph’s motivations mysterious, and to keep the reader invested regardless ... But the fact that such a pivotal piece is missing for most of the novel may leave readers cold, especially those looking for a more traditional love story. Siobhan, Miranda and Jane are painted so vividly that it’s frustrating to have their mutual love interest merely sketched in. When the romances aren’t center stage, The No-Show is a terrific read, filled with people who are enjoyable company even when the story goes to dark places ... The No-Show is sweeter and sadder and deeper and lovelier than I expected, and I enjoyed reading it. But I think I would have enjoyed it even more if I hadn’t constantly been questioning \'whydunnit.\'
RaveBookPageWhat’s the secret sauce for writing a perfectly delicious romance novel? I have no idea, but I do know that Love & Other Disasters, Anita Kelly’s culinary whirl of a love story, has got it ... a delicious confection of a story: savory, succulent and also a bit salty in spots, thanks to certain difficult personalities that come into play. The characters, from our protagonists to the other contestants to the crew on the show, feel vibrant and real in their virtues and most especially their flaws. But while the plot is rich and surprising, the central romance is sweet, right from the start ... The only bad thing about this book is that even after you’ve gorged on the whole thing, it’ll leave you wanting more.
PositiveBookPageWhile there’s a lot of humor and playfulness (Jemima’s letters to Daniel are highly entertaining), Riley doesn’t pull her emotional punches ... As the romance between Jemima and Daniel progresses, the heaviest weight comes from their vulnerabilities ... It’s no wonder that trust is a major theme of this romance. It’s not an easy thing for Daniel or Jemima to offer, not with so many people lined up to judge them. Their hesitance to trust each other can get a bit frustrating at times, but Riley makes it clear that they have good reason for their reservations. Love wins out over fear in the sweet ending—and the truth of what happened the day the ship sank, even when it’s not quite what anyone expected, sets them both free.
RaveBookpageThe conflict is immediate, but if you’re expecting typical rom-com over-the-top exploits, then you’d be wrong. Sure, Nora pulls a couple of fast ones to try to get around Will, but then something far sweeter than hijinks ensues ... There’s a lovely, expansive hopefulness to Clayborn’s romance. Pretty much none of its characters have the life they’d imagined for themselves or the one they would have chosen. Everyone, not just the main couple, has experienced their share of grief ... But as all of them come together in a variety of ways—involving poetry, lost kittens, towel rods and really good marinara sauce—a sense of beautiful optimism shines through Clayborn’s prose. Love at First will not only make you believe that you can recover from the pain in your past but that you can, if and when you choose, break away from your past entirely and build a new future, surrounded by love and support. Rather than narrowly focus on its main couple, Love at First overflows with a sense of connection and community. While watching Will and Nora fall deeply, endearingly in love, you’ll also fall in love with the world they live in, the community they build and the future they have to look forward to together.
Rachel Lynn Solomon
RaveBookPageIf I told you that The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon was an \'enemies-to-lovers workplace romance,\' you’d probably think you’d know what to expect, right? ... But what if I said this story isn’t about faking being together, but faking breaking up? ... While its central romance certainly functions as the story’s framework, The Ex Talk also leaves room to explore other kinds of love, including love for family (it was Shay’s late father who inspired her love of radio), love for friends, love for your work—and the kind of love for yourself that means you know when it’s time to leave a toxic, misogynistic work situation. (Thought this story was all sweetness and fluff? Think again.) ... funny, sharp, charming and insightful. This wonderful romance speaks volumes about chasing your dreams, finding your courage and putting everything on the line (or on the air) for love.
PositiveBookpageSensitive readers should be aware that The Truth About Dukes doesn’t hesitate to poke into dark corners. The horror of mental health care in the Regency period is unflinchingly portrayed, although descriptions of the more brutal \'treatments\' are mercifully brief, and Constance’s childhood was violent. But the trials Robert and Constance have faced only highlight their strength and resilience as a family. Their love for each other is fierce and lovely, and their fight to defend it is inspiring. It’s a wonderful ray of hope to read a story like this where tremendous obstacles are overcome through faith, family and a true and deep devotion.
RaveBookPage... for the reader at the start of this smart and engaging madcap romance, it’s certainly a lot of fun. Considering the usual telenovela twists, the story is actually surprisingly down-to-earth ... A few situations are dialed up for laughs, such as the infamous coffee incident during the meet-cute, but for the most part, Jasmine and Ashton face realistic challenges as they deal with their careers, their personal relationships and their blossoming feelings for each other ... Daria fills the story with palpable warmth and affection, not just for her hero and heroine but for the dual worlds they inhabit: the film industry and the Latin American community. If you enjoy behind the scenes peeks, the story includes plenty of fun details about the nuts and bolts of a working set ... And if you appreciate a media landscape that embraces diversity, you’ll love the chance to explore how Jasmine and Ashton carry their heritage with them, determinedly carving out opportunities not just for themselves but for all the gifted, undervalued Latinx performers searching for a place.
PositiveBookPageWhile the story’s high-society setting and rom-com premise embue it with plenty of frothy fun, Audrey’s sadness and self-doubt, along with Clarke’s own insecurities as the child of parents who don’t quite seem to know how to show love to anyone, give it depth. Thankfully, they have each other, and the strength of their friendship helps them heal enough to realize not just that they’ve been in love all along, but that they deserve the happiness they’ve found together. Warm and heartfelt, this story conveys author Lauren Layne’s real affection for her characters as they overcome the past and build a beautifully messy, perfectly imperfect future.
PositiveBookPageIn the latest installment of the Outcasts series, author Miranda Spencer shows that she has by no means lost her taste for juicy, refreshingly shocking characters that throw proper London society into a tizzy ... Spencer enjoys poking at the delicate scales of power in Regency society. While her characters move in the highest echelons, they’ve all struggled with powerlessness and disdain in various forms.
PositiveBookPage... [a] glorious, hilarious heartbreaker of a story ... McFarlane’s writing is funny and charming enough to keep her readers engaged, but the beats in the first part will feel familiar as the story shifts from The Breakfast Club to Bridget Jones’s Diary. Still, as the story progresses, the madcap humor starts to mingle with deeper emotions. Georgina is self-aware in a way that Bridget never managed. Her relationships with her friends and family delve below the surface, uncovering real emotions and deep-seated issue ... real and visceral ... McFarlane doesn’t skimp on sly humor or wacky characters, but no plot point has an easy fix and no character feels two-dimensional. Even the broadest personalities are loving, or loyal or cruel in tactile and vivid ways. And as the book progresses, you realize how much depth and truth there was to the characters and the story all along.
PositiveBookPageWith the small-town vibe, the local-boy-makes-good-hero story, the second-chance romance and the best-friend’s-sister trope all coming together, you may think you know where Fix Her Up is going, especially when Travis and Georgie concoct a plan to fake a relationship to boost their reputations. If you’re certain it’ll inevitably lead to hijinks, misunderstandings, personal resolutions not to get attached and irresistible attraction that makes the fake romance real in spite of everything . . . well, you’re right. So what? You know where a rollercoaster is going before you get on. That doesn’t stop it from being an amazingly fun ride. And this story has more than enough heat and excitement and sweetness and charm to keep you glued to the page ... With a couple this fresh, engaging and endearing, a happy ending seems like an inescapable conclusion. But in the hands of Tessa Bailey, it feels more like a justly earned reward for everything Travis and Georgie have done to make us fall in love with them along the way.
PositiveBookpageCole has a lot of fun with the luxury and decadence of the settings in A Prince on Paper and plenty of palaces, private jets and other trappings of wealth play into the escapist tone of the story ... With Johan, Nya doesn’t have to hide. And with Nya, Johan doesn’t have to dissemble. Their no-holds-barred honesty with each other is shocking compared to all the wheels-within-wheels manipulations surrounding them, and that’s exactly what makes it so sweet and satisfying. Johan puts all his masks aside while Nya steps out of the shadows, and they meet in the middle in a love that’s not a gamble or a game but a reward for their courage and trust.
PositiveBookpageInstead of the airless feel that sometimes defines Victorian-era stories, this book feels more like a freewheeling road trip rom-com where two opposites learn just how deeply they attract ... The story and the writing are as fun and vibrant as the book’s protagonists, and while the happily ever after is a given, it really is all about the madcap journey they take to get there.
RaveBookpageIn this exuberantly charming romance from Christina Lauren, the talented writing duo does the seemingly impossible. They take the classic, much-maligned stereotype of the \'cool\' girl—the gorgeous, wild, sexually-liberated, adventurous madcap that men go crazy for—and they make her feel real and engaging ... In so many stories of this type, the journey is about the free spirit woman helping the more buttoned-up man let loose and learn to enjoy himself. And yes, there’s a little of that here, as Josh learns that pretty much everything is more fun with Hazel along for the ride. But Lauren deepens his character beyond the handsome straight man by exploring his experiences as the son of South Korean immigrants, and makes the canny choice of having his reactions to Hazel fall much more on the side of bemused affection, rather than an annoyingly superior disapproval.
PositiveBookPage\"To Love a Duchess is Ranney’s first book in a new trilogy entitled All for Love, and her writing beautifully shows how love can triumph over pain, fear, anger and blame. The physical attraction between the characters is strong, but the emotional connection is just as powerful as they both work through their grief and help each other heal. It’s empowering as a reader to see Suzanne come out of her shell and start living again, instead of just existing. The author takes time for social commentary as well, highlighting the terrible treatment of girls in the working class when they, willingly or not, became pregnant outside of marriage. Ranney paints a heartbreaking image of the struggles they faced, but it feels a touch removed as none of the women in that situation have dialogue in To Love a Duchess. Their stories are told for them, while they don’t speak at all. Perhaps that will change in the next book in the series, and Ranney will highlight the ways that love and understanding can heal those wounds too.\