PositiveEntertainment WeeklyToo Good to Be Real is the stuff of rom-com fantasies come to life. It offers readers the dream of Notting Hill resort, a LARPing experience that is like if Austenland were all your favorite \'90s rom-coms ... The rom-com resort is such an inventive setting, and any lover of those films will delight at the minutiae of the references with which Johnson liberally dots her pages. It\'s impossible to not wish it was a real place to stay after reading this book ... Luke and Julia\'s chemistry leaves something to be desired, and their connection doesn\'t quite spark beyond the cutesy trappings of their rom-com moments. But the various scenarios Johnson devises are laugh-out-loud funny; her cast of characters is vibrant and engaging; and the book as a whole is the type of frothy escape readers long for. We just wish the romantic relationship packed as good a punch as the friendships depicted here.
PositiveEntertainment Weekly\"Jordan paints a vibrant picture of Shropshire, a village with so much more to offer beyond the ducal seat at its edges—and in the process, makes a firm argument for more historical romances that dare to live outside the ballroom or even the aristocracy altogether. Her love scenes crackle (don\'t worry, the book makes good on its deliciously clever title), and Imogen and Perry engage in delightful banter throughout. But the book gets off to a slow start with a few too many flashbacks and dips into the past. It also uses an incident of domestic violence in its climax in a way that diminishes the horror and impact of the situation, instead using it to reunite the protagonists in a throwaway moment for the victims. But for those looking for a historical romp that goes a bit further afield than a 19th century estate, The Duke Goes Down is a delightful diversion.
Sarah J. Maas
RaveEntertainment WeeklyOver the course of multiple fantasy series, Sarah J. Maas has made an art of crafting fierce, self-destructive female characters. But few are as polarizing as Nesta, one of three human sisters turned High Fae, who takes center stage in this first truly \'adult\' entry in Maas\' A Court of Thorns and Roses series ... Maas is an expert at plumbing the depths of female friendships, exploring them as a foundation for love, resiliency, and care. Her stories understand that friendships can be as meaningful as romantic connections, that true healing and recovery from trauma can be forged in the fire of these platonic bonds ... Like House of Earth and Blood before this, [Maas\'] novels find their sweet spot pressing on the bruise of loss ... A Court of Silver Flames earns its adult label with a shimmering erotic romance that probes vulnerability and grief. It\'s a viciously vibrant epic, determined to remind us why forgiveness is the bravest act of all.
PositiveEntertainment WeeklyDiana Quincy delivers a diverse, own voices historical romance that will leave readers clamoring for more ... We talk often of the need for non-white and non-Western points of view in historical romance, and Quincy offers a sparkling gem that straddles both of those, a firm reminder of how many women’s stories have been scrubbed from the pages of history ... The book suffers from an epilogue that will no doubt infuriate many readers ... Despite its missteps, Her Night with the Duke is a shimmering tale of a taboo connection turned empowerment narrative, as both Leela and Elliot must learn to claim the life they deserve, society be damned.
PositiveEntertainment WeeklyAs major publishing houses still are testing the waters of how to deliver diverse historical romance, Milan does much to push the sub-genre forward in this regard ... there’s a sense of liberation and resiliency that bleeds from every page. There’s no fear here of tempering this to meet outdated expectations, only a fierce love for the culture on unabashed display. This is conveyed in every inch of the text, from Milan’s mouthwatering descriptions of food that contribute to a key aspect of the plot to how the characters assess and claim their version of what it means to be British. These questions of identity are the novel’s strongest suit, as the romance is just all too amiable. Romance readers taste range from fluffy to angsty, but The Duke Who Didn’t plays with structure, avoiding conflict with a studied determination ... With The Duke Who Didn’t Milan takes a massive swing on multiple fronts, with some hits and some misses, still ending with a respectable batting average overall.
PositiveEntertainment WeeklyJen DeLuca returns to her glorious world of Ren Faire romance with this warm follow-up to last year’s Well Met ... DeLuca has built an evocative, delightful world in only two Ren Faire books. Returning to the Willow Creek Faire feels as comforting as slipping on a pair of well-worn leather breeches. It’s an inviting and lively setting, one that allows the pages to be dotted with taverns, drinking songs, and just the right amount of huzzahs. Well Played doesn’t have quite the undercurrent of melancholy that helped Well Met pack its extra punch – like its heroine, it’s sunnier, possessing an altogether lighter touch. But that doesn’t lessen the joy it has to offer ... In DeLuca’s hands, we’d have to agree – there’s endless tales and excitement to be found in this world, still one of the freshest, most engaging concepts in romance a year after she introduced us to it. A hearty huzzah for Well Played.
RaveEntertainment WeeklyBilled as a \'raunch com,\' The Roommate both absolutely fits that bill and defies the implications of that Judd Apatow-tinged label. It’s more feminist, more tender, and sexier than anything that term suggests ... a towering inferno of steam, a novel with a risqué premise that belies its abundant heart and profound sense of yearning. For a book that doesn’t flinch when discussing pornography, it’s refreshingly vulnerable, tearing up any assumptions readers might have about the seedier sides of the business to celebrate equitable pleasure and consent (while also getting real about the abuses that can plague the industry and sex work more broadly) ... Danan’s voice is sparkling, witty and direct. She’s able to pivot from disarming pop culture references to electric sex scenes to frank heart-to-hearts that mask deep pools of want with stunning ease. The Roommate might offer a hard-core premise, but it’s gloriously soft and joyful, a sex positive manifesto inside a deliriously romantic, wickedly shameless love story.
RaveEntertainment Weekly... sublime ... Hibbert has this incisive ability to cut right to the heart of something, and she does it again here with anxiety, grief, and feelings of inadequacy. She describes anxiety in piercingly true ways. Her books are buoyant with compassion. Zaf and Dani are filled with tremendous care for each other ... In this winking, divinely funny tale of a fake relationship turned real, Hibbert finds space to unpick everything from toxic masculinity to racism in academia to romance as balm (shout-out to her Beverly Jenkins reference). It engages directly with popular criticism that romance is unrealistic, perhaps even detrimental, by framing it as Zaf’s saving grace in combatting his mental anguish. Happy endings, as Zaf points out, aren’t formulaic spoilers, they are safety nets. But it also takes care to validate those less engaged with romance with a capital \'R\' with its love for Dani just as she is, if only she’ll let down her walls. Like her heroine, Hibbert blends insightful literary and cultural commentary with a love story that’s exuberant, hilarious, and restorative. She writes with astonishing empathy, but never pity, both seeing and demanding the best in her characters and her readers. Take a Hint, Dani Brown is a burst of sunshine, as happy and bright as the daffodil yellow of its cover, and we’d gladly bask in its light endlessly.
Sarah J. Maas
RaveEntertainment WeeklyFull of complex sociopolitical commentary and steamy romance, it earns the more mature label, with depictions of toe-curling sex, explicit violence, and liberal swearing (don’t worry, we won’t tell your parents) ... a dizzying, suspenseful whirl that surprises at every turn ... The author’s world-building skills have long been considered among the finest of her peers. And they’re newly thrilling in Earth and Blood, intricately rendering Crescent City as a place that feels both familiar and wildly imagined. But it’s Maas’ sweeping feel for love stories, and particularly her essential take on female fellowship, that cast the real spell.
RaveEntertainment Weekly... a potent backdrop to cast this central romance against, one that allows space for Shupe to interrogate social justice, classism, and the heartbreaking complexities of the circumstances of domestic violence victims ... a powerful parable for the limited choices available to women and how such choices are shaped by the vagaries of class. Shupe also includes a sequence of assault to further the point she’s making about how often women were (or are) subject to the whims of men – and that true happy endings come from throwing off the shackles of the limitations of class, sex, gender, and societal expectation to live a life of own’s choosing. For Mamie and Frank, their happy ending is as much about justice as it is about the electric chemistry they share – chemistry readers get to witness explode with sexy times on a billiard table and a desk. Swoon! With The Rogue of Fifth Avenue, Shupe continues to build on the sterling legacy she’s building for herself as a gifted weaver of glittering Gilded Age tales (complete with lots of nods to real historical figures), while also deepening the contemporary resonance of her themes.
RaveEntertainment WeeklyWhatever muse is singing in Berry to produce her lyrical writing, we’d like to lobby for their services. The story itself is intoxicating ... Her research is impeccable, but it never overrides the breathless sensation that we are accompanying the gods along on a wisp of air, flitting in and out of the tragedies and triumphs of these individual’s lives. Occasionally, the other gods’ reactions to Aphrodite’s stories, their tears in particular, feel manufactured, outweighing the response of the reader. It’s hard to know if that’s intentional or a clever bit of emotional manipulation designed to make a reader feel a moment more deeply ... The narrative framework and the themes Berry explores through these icons of mythology pack more of a punch than the individual details of these lovers’ lives ... a gripping wartime love story, but it’s also an original, breathtaking examination of how humanity’s ills, from violence to racism, are conquered by our better tendencies ... a compelling take on fate, loss, and hope — and how when everything else hangs in the balance, love resounds as the most complicated, mystifying, resilient force of all.
RaveEntertainment WeeklyBeatriz Williams has made a name for herself as a historical novelist with a knack for the obscured whisperings and yearnings of women’s lives ... She adds to that canon with The Summer Wives ... Williams writes of Miranda’s journey in both timelines with a keen eye for the wounds unique to both the first flushes of teenage love and an older, deeper, more enduring ache ... Williams’ particular gift as a writer is peeling back the pages of history to breathe life into the interior lives of women ... With The Summer Wives, she has perhaps crafted her most evocative and stirring novel yet ... But Williams also never falls into the trap of nostalgia, always taking care to draw back the curtain on this sparkling world to show the rottenness at its core ... The novel is also a compelling mystery that will keep you turning the pages to discover both the secrets of the past and the prospects of the future. Williams writes with compassion and empathy for all of her characters, beguiling you with twists and turns.
MixedEntertainment WeeklyWhile Perri’s tale is a romance, it lacks some of the requisite heat and deep yearning that make for the best entries in the genre ... There’s nothing wrong with the notion of opposites attracting, but Perri never fully builds a convincing enough reason for these two to be together ... The most compelling part of the novel is the questions it raises about identity and finding one’s place in the world ... A romance is meant to guarantee a happily-ever-after at its conclusion by definition, but it should never feel undeservingly inevitable.
RaveEntertainment WeeklyAs Louisa has matured and grown, so too have Moyes’ novels, resulting in the best entry in the Me Before You trilogy yet. Here, Moyes seeks to plumb what it truly means to find oneself and build a life alongside others rather than solely in service to them … Past characters pop up with enough frequency to satisfy the most devoted readers, while Moyes’ ability to craft utterly unique and delightful new characters that spring off the page remains … Louisa herself is a heroine with whom you could spend endless hours – her generosity of spirit, sincerity, and gently self-deprecating inner monologue make it obvious why Moyes and readers have stuck with her through three books. For fans of the previous novels, Moyes has crafted a worthy conclusion to her trilogy, offering a finale brimming with pathos and warmth.