#BookReview: Cupid Season by Nicola Marsh

Short, Fun, And Little Drama. This is one of those romance tales that is great for someone who wants a mostly lighter-side tale with just enough actual drama and backstory to make things interesting without overly weighing the tale down. Throw in some reality-show type antics, and you’ve got a solid formula for an easy vacation/ by the fire read for those times when maybe you don’t have the time or energy to invest in a tome, but you just want or need something a bit on the lighter and shorter side. Very much recommended.

This review of Cupid Season by Nicola Marsh was originally written on September 15, 2023.

#BookReview: Thank You For Sharing by Rachel Runya Katz

M/F Romance For The Queer Theory / Traditional-Masculinity-Is-Toxic crowd. I’ve read a lot of books in a lot of genres with nearly every bent you can imagine outside of swords and sorcery fantasy – which I simply can’t get into, no matter how much I try – and this one has some interesting things going for it. Our female lead is a museum curator – not usually shown in such books, male or female – and has an awesome career opportunity laid out in front of her. Our male lead is a digital marketing specialist – has there ever been a more “Millenial/ Zoomer” job? – who is unsatisfied in his own career, and this next project is make or break for him. So there’s a lot of work angst here in addition to the history of these two together. Combine their friends into one common group, and you’ve got a solid story that at a high level, the Hallmarkie set can easily enjoy.

But then… then you’ve got the pervasive bigotry against virtually anything non-queer, traditional, and/ or white. To the tune that this line deep in the book gives a good indication without even being anywhere near the worst examples: “”I fully endorse lesbian country songs and murder ballads about abusive husbands if you want to play those. It’s the I-like-guns-and-women-and-beer-and-trucks stuff I can’t stand.” (For the record, this reviewer has a problem with murder and domestic violence *no matter who is being attacked or why*.) So, Carrie Underwood and the Dixie – oops, I mean, just “The Chicks” – are perfectly fine, Brad Paisley (whom Underwood has worked *many* events with) and Alabama are out. Got it. But again, this is just a minor example that is concrete evidence of the overall problem. And to be clear, since readers of this particular review may not follow *all* of my reviews and may not know how I work this particular issue (and really, if you want a wide range of good books to read that you’d likely have never found on your own… you really should follow me wherever you’re reading this :D), I look at bigotry by flipping the demographics involved. If [insert demographic A] was behaving this way or saying these things about [insert demographic B], would it be seen as a problem? If it would, and yet [insert demographic B] is behaving that way or saying those things about [insert demographic A]… *it is still a problem*.

But, as I also say quite frequently, there will *always* be someone out there who LOVES the book (or item, more generally) for the EXACT reason a particular reviewer HATES it (and vice versa), so the more you agree with the title and the line I quoted, eh, the more you’re probably going to enjoy this book.

Overall, again, if you remove the pervasive bigotry here, it actually is a rather interesting tale that fully hits everything a younger Millenial/ Zoomer would expect in a romance and meets all genre requirements I am aware of. Combined with others sharing a similar political bent across the generations, and I’m sure Katz can still make quite a career playing into these same ideologies – we see both in books and elsewhere these days that what I once thought impossible is now a daily occurrence, so far as cutting out roughly half of your potential market and yet still having a wildly successful career goes.

Recommended, if you’re open to the particular biases here. The more opposed you are to them… the more you’re going to want to throw this book through the nearest window and DNF it, then leave a scathing 1* review strictly because you didn’t like the politics/ biases at play. Spare Katz the drama and yourself the heart and headache, and just skip it in that case.

This review of Thank You For Sharing by Rachel Runya Katz was originally written on September 5, 2023.

#BookReview: Fly With Me by Andie Burke

Solid Premise Marred By Pervasive Bigotry Against Anything Non-Queer. My book stats don’t lie- I read pretty well damn near everything. I’ve read several lesbian/ bisexual (of all forms) romances over the years, and actually still have another outstanding one to read in the next few weeks. And this one, as a slow burn with very heavy concepts… eh, it works reasonably well. Even as I find myself writing a 4* review and mostly siding with the existing 1* – 2* reviews that are currently on Goodreads as I write this as far as my own personal feelings about the book. But I pride myself in my “subtractive method” and trying to be objective-ish when deducting stars, and really the only thing objectively wrong here is the bigotry against anything non-queer, as noted in the title. As in, literally every single character – religious or not – that is not queer in this book is a bad guy, and while there is a singular queer bad guy as well – the ex-girlfriend of one of our MCs here – even this is portrayed in a better light than the non-queer characters. Yes, there is also a trans character that plays a small yet somewhat important role as well.

But, as I constantly say – “someone is going to LOVE the book for *EXACTLY* the reasons a given reviewer HATES it, and vice versa”, and I fully expect this to be the case here. A girl/ girl romance, no matter how you want to classify it, already has a fairly limited market, for any number of reasons. Within that market, I expect this tale to do reasonably well, as it is actually reasonably good from certain perspectives. Outside of that market, I think the bigotry so pervasively on display here is going to sink its chances even more than the girl/ girl romance nature of the tale.

I will say that as someone who frequents Walt Disney World and as a former runner with a couple of half marathons (though never a Disney one) under his belt… the sequences inside the park where actually quite fun, and the descriptions of a half marathon… show this particular runner didn’t train and/ or prepare particularly well for that length of race. Just to toss in a couple of observations I haven’t seen in other reviews as well. ๐Ÿ™‚

Overall, if you’re into queer and/ or girl/ girl specifically romances… give this one a try. I genuinely do like to try to support debut authors, which is the actual primary reason I picked up this ARC, and there is certainly a sizeable market amongst those who will more readily agree with the author’s overall perspectives. If you’re less open to those types of romances… I’d say skip this one. There are certainly less problematic ones out there to try to broaden your horizons with a bit than this one, and maybe you skipping it will spare the author a 1* or 2* review. Recommended.

This review of Fly With Me by Andie Burke was originally written on August 28, 2023.

#BlogTour: Kissing Kosher by Jean Meltzer

For this blog tour, we’re looking at . For this blog tour, we’re looking at Kissing Kosher by Jean Meltzer.

Here’s what I had to say on the review sites (Goodreads, Hardcover.app, TheStoryGraph, BookHype):

Fun, Informative Without Being Preachy – But *IS* Focused On Advocacy As Much As Romance. This is one of those books that works its advocacy into its story in a compelling way that doesn’t come across as preachy at all – but *can* feel like a bit of a “Sponsored By” kind of a tale. The issues it discusses, including both chronic pain and medical (and even recreational) marijuana use are very real, and in these areas the book is quite informative indeed – hell, I openly admit I learned quite a bit more about marijuana from reading this book than I ever had in 40+ yrs prior.

But that gets to a bit of a heart of the dilemma – I can now tell you as much about the intricacies of how marijuana actually works as I can about the specifics of this ostensibly enemies to lovers romance tale. I can tell you as much about how chronic pain can completely take over a person’s life as I can about the actual character who has it and her budding relationship throughout this tale. Indeed, the actual “conflict” here is largely over just about 50% into the tale, with another blowup a bit later. But it is this section in between in particular where the book is at the height of its paid promotional ad feeling, without ever naming specific real world organizations. (This feeling isn’t helped by the fact that several of these elements come back to bear in the wildly extended epilogue – a short (ish) stinger on the end of the story, this epilogue is not. Indeed, it reads and feels more like just another final chapter rather than a true epilogue.)

Overall, there is nothing technically wrong here, so no star deduction. And the tale itself, outside of the advocacy, really is sweet and charming and most everything anyone really wants in a romance with a few comedic moments. But the advocacy, while never actually preachy, is still such a prevalent force here that it does in fact take away from the ultimate feel of the romance. Still, quite entertaining and truly informative. Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Kissing Kosher by Jean Meltzer”

#BlogTour: It All Comes Back To You by Melissa Wiesner

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a strong atypical romance. For this blog tour, we’re looking at It All Comes Back To You by Melissa Wiesner.

Here’s what I had to say on the review sites (Goodreads, Hardcover.app, TheStoryGraph, BookHype):

Strong Long-Form Romance. You know those romance tales where someone meets on a plane on their way to their (separate) vacations that happen to be in the same place, fall in love on the plane, and are damn near married by the time they get on the plane back home?

Yeah… this isn’t that. At all. This one takes more like 15 years, and has a LOT more growth of both of our lead characters between the initial meeting and the proposal. There is a strong coming of age element here, there is a strong sense of destiny here, but more importantly and one of the strongest features of the tale is that there is a strong sense of “[S]he’s *right there*! Get your FUCKING act together!”… except that it truly does take both of them the entire time frame to really get to the point where they *can* be together.

And you know what… sometimes… sometimes that happens in real life too. And those real life stories deserve to see their fictional counterparts too. So I’m glad Wiesner wrote this one, so that these types of stories *can* get out more. Because let’s face it, these kinds of romances aren’t exactly the typical ones in the genre – and that makes them all the more refreshing and interesting when you *do* find one like this. Very much recommended.

After the jump, the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: It All Comes Back To You by Melissa Wiesner”

#BlogTour: Talulah’s Back In Town by Brenda Novak

For this blog tour, we’re looking at a fairly standard Hallmarkie type romance. For this blog tour, we’re looking at Talulah’s Back In Town by Brenda Novak.

Here’s what I had to say on the review sites (Goodreads, Hardcover.app, TheStoryGraph, BookHype):

Fairly Standard Hallmarkie Type Romance – And There Is Absolutely Nothing Wrong With That. This is one of those fairly standard Hallmarkie type romances that meets up with a touch of Runaway Bride with real-world type complications, particularly in a small town. There is even a minor *hint* of danger (without ever really feeling too suspenseful, more as a touch of “spice” than anything). In other words, those – not even that arguably *millions* – who read romance books and/ or watch Hallmark movies as pure, mostly light, escapism… hey, this book is *exactly* in that vein and thus will be *exactly* what you’re looking for. For those who don’t like such tales… well, again, this *is* that type of tale. So don’t leave a 1* review because it didn’t exactly break any new ground or because it had some sex scenes and cursing and such. I’ve already told you pretty well *exactly* what to expect here, so the fact that you’re reading this particular review means that you can’t say *no one* warned you. I have! ๐Ÿ˜€

But again, for the millions – *and millions!* (to channel a bit of The Rock) – who want some romantic type drama complete with all that this entails… welcome home. Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Talulah’s Back In Town by Brenda Novak”

#BookReview: Someone Just Like You by Meredith Schorr

Hilarious NYC-Based Rom-Com. This book has several different things going on at once, which can seem a bit chaotic – and seems to be meant to. The base setup, of two sets of siblings planning a joint anniversary party for both sets of parents, is chaotic enough. Then you throw in the actual romance here, of a boy and girl who almost literally grew up together and have a lifetime of bickering with each other and pranking each other behind them (which we get to see a lot of), and it becomes a recipe for… well, everything. The love is deep and heartfelt – even as neither of them realizes it. The comedy, both in the past and present, is pure gold. The drama… is both real (parents) and Hallmarkie (romance) and yet also comedic (a famous movie that has been remade at least twice, but revealing which one reveals things about the book). Overall, it hits all the genre “rules” and while it isn’t for the “sweet”/ “clean” crowd, also isn’t anywhere near erotica level either. In fact, as others have mentioned (both positively and negatively), the first “encounter” is rather comedic (and, I would argue, *real*).

At the end of the day, this is one of those kinds of books where your mileage really will vary. If you love zany “what the fuck” stories with a LOT of side characters and all kinds of stuff happening all around the main storyline, you’re going to love this book. The more you have a problem with that kind of setup, the less you’re going to enjoy this one.

Overall, I thought this was freaking hilarious and truly well done. Very much recommended.

This review of Someone Just Like You by Meredith Schorr was originally written on July 25, 2023.

#BookReview: Play To Win by Jodie Slaughter

Extreme And Pervasive Racism Mars Otherwise Spectacular Second Chance Romance. Ok, white dude claiming racism on a book that features few white characters – none of whom are portrayed kindly, fwiw. So let me explain up front: My standard for detecting bigotry is to flip the demographics. If it would then be considered bigotry, then it is bigotry in the original form as well. Here, we have several characters both primary and secondary openly inquiring if a particular local small business is “black owned” or not, all throughout the text. Now, if a book that barely had any black characters had a bunch of white characters asking if a particular local small business was “white owned” or “straight white man” owned… there would be HELL to pay in certain segments of society. Thus, by the standard I stated above, the racism here is quite clear. As it happens frequently throughout the text – including the aforementioned extremely few white characters being portrayed as racist caricatures – it is also pervasive, though you’ll either have to read the book yourself or take my word for that.

Beyond the racism though, this is truly a *spectacular* second chance tale. One that many, no matter their demographics, will deeply understand – particularly those who grew up in the lower echelons of wealth and/ or in the small town rural South, as I did. The motivations for all of our characters here… well, many of us have seen similar shit within our own families, if not directly within our own lives. So truly, kudos, Ms. Slaughter, for staying so *real* and yet also providing a few hours of solid escapism.

While others may claim that the motivations for the separation were “unclear”… no, they weren’t. You just may never have been close to a similar point in your own life, and may not have felt just how close you yourself could have been to making such a boneheaded decision. Even in my professional adult life – not just my initial years in the trailer park – … I’ve been closer to this than most ever realized, and I remember *that* as much as I do my trailer park years, really moreso.

Now, a word for the “sweet” and/ or “clean” crowd that wants anything beyond a peck on the cheek to be completely off screen or at least “behind closed doors”… yeah… apparently Ms. Slaughter doesn’t know how to write that kind of tale, at least not based on the now two books (after Bet On It) I’ve read from her. Instead, as with Bet On It, this is active, in your face (literally, in the case of the characters’ faces ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) damn near erotica level sex. So if Ron White / Wanda Sykes type comedy isn’t your thing… you might want to avoid this one, as this gets *so much worse*.

Another thing to like here, and that I mentioned in Bet On It as well, is just how *normal* Ms. Slaughter shows modern Southern living to be, here including even up to casual acceptance of GSM (Gay and Sexual Minorities, a truly inclusive term that doesn’t need constant modifications ever few years) / “LGBT+” people and even couples. While so many tales try to show some level of hostility or animus to such people or any other divergence from lily white WASPy types, Ms. Slaughter’s small town embrace of these characters of some of their own shows the modern South I too grew up in quite realistically and quite well, and for that she is to be commended.

Finally, again, if you can get past the blatant and pervasive racism (or perhaps if you even agree with it), and if you don’t mind the damn near erotica level sex scenes… this really is quite a strong tale and quite well told, given the above caveats. Very much recommended.

This review of Play To Win by Jodie Slaughter was originally written on July 9, 2023.

#BookReview: Sex Ed by Kristen Bailey

Fun With Sex. My god this review is going to get me on so many porn bot radars, isn’t it? But the title here really fits – starting with the very title of the book, “Sex Ed”…. which then features a 28yo virgin named Ed being taught about sex by his wildchild best friend. The friends to lovers trope is in perfect display here, the friendship and trust there deeply established… until we get into Hallmarkie level drama at the exact point in the story you expect Hallmarkie level drama in a romcom. We even have the “interesting grandparent” trope hitting and hitting well, as well as some sisterly bonding. And yes, there is a lot of sex, pretty much all of it “on screen”. So if you’re not a fan of that… maybe the title here (of the book and/ or review) clued you in that this isn’t the best book for you? Speaking of the sex, while not necessarily the “oh my God this is nuclear hot” type found in some other works, this was more of the playful variety that to my mind is just as important in a relationship and doesn’t always get the attention it deserves in romcom books in particular. So kudos to Ms. Bailey for going that direction with it, it was clearly an inspired choice. Overall a fun tale that will offend few other than those actively looking to be offended, great for both fans of romcoms and for those looking for some level of a “palate cleanser” from darker tales. Very much recommended.

This review of Sex Ed by Kristen Bailey was originally written on June 30, 2023.

#BookReview: And Then There Was You by Nancy Naigle

Slow Burn Hallmarkie Southern Romance. This is another of those books that almost seems destined for the small screen on the Hallmark Channel or one of its newer competitors. But here, the romance is *very* slow burn, taking nearly all of this books 350 or so pages to finally get the couple together – and even then, they barely kiss, much less anything else. So this is definetly more for the “sweet” and/ or “clean” crowd than the crowd that wants damn near erotica level sex in the first chapter. (You know what I mean, and you know who you are.) Cursing is next to non-existent here, and may even be completely non-existent – I certainly don’t remember any. Prayers, church attendance, mentions of God and Jesus… those are far more plentiful – and just as accurate to the Southern small mountain town setting as the broken families, abuse, and alcoholism that are also discussed, but which take place long before this book and are only discussed – not shown “on screen”.

Indeed, the bulk of the tale is a woman being conned… and then trying to re-establish her life after very nearly everything other than her breath is taken from her. Here, the book truly shines as the reader feels quite viscerally everything our lead is going through, as well as just how much the investigator assigned to her case wants to solve it for her. Naigle uses this structure to first get our lead to the point of being willing to move – and then to show the small town that will serve as the basis for the rest of this series (more on that momentarily) as an outsider would see it, for all its wonders and faults.

Really the only thing quite obviously missing here is an obvious second book, as this is listed as “number one” in a new series. As the series name is the same as the town name, clearly the town itself will be central to this series, and thus its establishment here is quite solid indeed. There’s just no real obvious “oh, this is who we’re tracking in the next book” set up. Or maybe I just missed it?

Overall a solid tale of its type, one that some will absolutely adore and others will find… the nearest window to throw it out of. Still, for what it is, truly a good tale, well told. Very much recommended.

This review of And Then There Was You by Nancy Naigle was originally written on June 8, 2023.