Book Review: Well Matched by Jen DeLuca

Well Matched Book photo - picture of the book surrounded by princess bride funko pops, yellow flowers, and a yellow book

cover222764-mediumTitle: Well Matched
Author: Jen DeLuca
Series: Well Met #3
Genre: Romance, Chick Lit
Date of Publication: October 19, 2021
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group


Synopsis

An accidentally in-love rom-com filled with Renaissance Faire flower crowns, kilts, corsets, and sword fights.

Single mother April Parker has lived in Willow Creek for twelve years with a wall around her heart. On the verge of being an empty nester, she’s decided to move on from her quaint little town, and asks her friend Mitch for his help with some home improvement projects to get her house ready to sell.

Mitch Malone is known for being the life of every party, but mostly for the attire he wears to the local Renaissance Faire–a kilt (and not much else) that shows off his muscled form to perfection. While he agrees to help April, he needs a favor too: she’ll pretend to be his girlfriend at an upcoming family dinner, so that he can avoid the lectures about settling down and having a more “serious” career than high school coach and gym teacher. April reluctantly agrees, but when dinner turns into a weekend trip, it becomes hard to tell what’s real and what’s been just for show. But when the weekend ends, so must their fake relationship.

As summer begins, Faire returns to Willow Creek, and April volunteers for the first time. When Mitch’s family shows up unexpectedly, April pretends to be Mitch’s girlfriend again…something that doesn’t feel so fake anymore. Despite their obvious connection, April insists they’ve just been putting on an act. But when there’s the chance for something real, she has to decide whether to change her plans–and open her heart–for the kilt-wearing hunk who might just be the love of her life.

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My Thoughts

This book is marketed as a rom com, but it’s much closer to women’s fiction, (but with that expected Happy Ever After that we expect in romance novels). While the book is broadly about April finding love, she’s also finding a renewed purpose in life and figuring out who she really is in the process. While the pacing of this book is quite slow, the introspection gives us the opportunity to really get into April’s head and dive into the life she’s built for herself in Willow Creek. Her daughter is graduating from high school, and then she’ll be going off to university. April should be ecstatic–she’s wanted nothing more than to sell her house and leave this town behind. But this summer, she’s forced to confront what she really wants, and the true reason why Willow Creek has never truly felt like home, which has nothing to do with the town or its residents and everything to do with her and her outlook on life. 

The atmosphere of this book is tinged with melancholy. April is a forty-year-old divorcee. She broke up with her husband shortly after her eighteen-year-old daughter, Caitlin, was born, and she hasn’t had any serious relationships since. They moved to Willow Creek, but April resisted setting down roots. She has her book club, and her sister recently moved to town (Read Well Met for that epic tale!), but she doesn’t have much else tying her to this location. Even Mitch, who was delightful and cheery in the previous two books, seems a lot more subdued in this novel. He’s still got charisma, but it isn’t enough to make the contents of the book match its cheery blue cover.

Like the previous two books in this series, DeLuca has taken a common trope as the basis for this story. Mitch Malone asks April to be his fake girlfriend for a family gathering, and a lot of the expected clichés come out of it (sharing a bedroom–and a bed, etc.). My favourite part of the previous two books in this series–and subsequently this book–is the parts set at the Renaissance Faire. Unfortunately, the first half of this book is set before the faire rolls into town, and those chapters lacked the colour and flavour that I have come to love–and expect–in this series. Once the Faire does start, it’s still not quite the same, because the book is from April’s point of view, and she’s never been a huge fan of the Faire (or anything requiring any kind of participation or fun). DeLuca does make up for this later on in the book, but I was hoping for more than a few chapters set at the Renaissance Faire. It’s what makes this series truly unique, and it otherwise is just a rehashing of old tropes without a fresh new take on them.  Honestly, the scenes with Captain Blackthorne (the first book’s hero’s alter ego), made me nostalgic for the fun and renaissance faire-filled goodness from the first instalment in the series.

All in all, this is a quick read for fans of the fake girlfriend trope, but don’t go into it expecting the usual Willow Creek Renaissance Faire shenanigans.

Well Matched Book photo - picture of the book surrounded by princess bride funko pops, yellow flowers, and a yellow book

*Thank you to the publisher, Netgalley, and the author for the ebook to review*

Three stars

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Book Review: How Sweet It Is by Dylan Newton

How Sweet it Is book cover

55898107Title: How Sweet It Is
Author: Dylan Newton
Genre: Romance
Date of Publication: July 13, 2021
Publisher: Forever


Synopsis

Event planner Kate Sweet is famous for creating the perfect happily-ever-after moment for her clients’ dream weddings. So how is it that her best friend has roped her into planning a bestselling horror writer’s book launch extravaganza? But the second Kate meets—or rather, accidentally maims—the drop-dead-hot Drake Matthews, her well-ordered life quickly transforms into an absolute nightmare.

Drake Matthews is tired of the spotlight and tired of his reputation as the Knight of Nightmares. He’s really a nice guy! But he’s not prepared for Kate, a fearless agent of chaos in steel-tipped stilettos, or for that sweet sting of attraction he feels for her. She’s inspiring him to take his writing in a whole new direction—one that no one expects. Because now Kate and Drake are changing up the rules, and this plot twist might just surprise everyone . . . including themselves.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

If you’re looking for a sweet, zero angst, fun book, then this is the one for you! The plot is very much like that of a Hallmark movie–with some humor, the setting of a small town just outside of New York City, and adorable interactions between the hero and the heroine. 

Kate Sweet works as an event planner, and her primary focus is on planning Cinderella-like weddings for her clients. The book opens when her best friend, a publicist for a book publisher, reaches out to her for help. She has to plan an infamous horror author’s book launch party in only thirty days. Kate agrees to do this, but this type of event is a lot… spookier than what she’s used to…

Right off the bat, the first chapter sets the tone for the book. Despite the implications that the book’s description gives, there’s very little conflict in this book. It’s light and airy, and despite the hero being a horror novelist, there is absolutely no gore or scary bits (unless you consider accidentally making a child cry at a pumpkin carving contest horror).

Continue reading “Book Review: How Sweet It Is by Dylan Newton”

Book Review: Well Played by Jen DeLuca

Well Played

Well PlayedTitle: Well Played
Author: Jen DeLuca
Genre: Romance
Series: Well Met #2

Date of Publication: September 22, 2020
Publisher: Berkley


Synopsis

Stacey is jolted when her friends Simon and Emily get engaged. She knew she was putting her life on hold when she stayed in Willow Creek to care for her sick mother, but it’s been years now, and even though Stacey loves spending her summers pouring drinks and flirting with patrons at the local Renaissance Faire, she wants more out of life. Stacey vows to have her life figured out by the time her friends get hitched at Faire next summer. Maybe she’ll even find The One.

When Stacey imagined “The One,” it never occurred to her that her summertime Faire fling, Dex MacLean, might fit the bill. While Dex is easy on the eyes onstage with his band The Dueling Kilts, Stacey has never felt an emotional connection with him. So when she receives a tender email from the typically monosyllabic hunk, she’s not sure what to make of it.

Faire returns to Willow Creek, and Stacey comes face-to-face with the man with whom she’s exchanged hundreds of online messages over the past nine months. To Stacey’s shock, it isn’t Dex—she’s been falling in love with a man she barely knows.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

I was so excited to return to the Willow Creek’s Renaissance Faire! 

I adore Jen Deluca’s writing style.  Like Well Met, her voice shines through in the protagonist’s inner dialogue.  This is definitely a feel-good novel, and the book is chock full of humorous observations and witty banter.

Unfortunately, the romance was lacking for me in this book.  It seemed a little too easy, and, quite frankly, Daniel was bland.  I loved Simon Well Met. He was a strict rule follower, had a sense of obligation to continue on his brother’s legacy, but he gradually revealed a playful side when he played his part of pirate in the Renaissance Faire. But with Daniel? I really couldn’t tell you much about him, other than the fact that he feels like he’s trapped in his cousins’ shadow and he kind of likes cats. We only get Stacey’s point of view in this novel, and unfortunately we weren’t privy to any scenes where Daniel may or may not have talked about his likes and interests while they were falling in love.

That said, there are some sweet moments, particularly when they’re still in the long-distance, lies-riddled, texting/emails stage of their relationship.  

Stacey’s decisions were also a little foreign to me.  She is far too forgiving of Daniel’s lies, and to be honest, he didn’t even expect her to forgive him. He never really fights for their relationship, even in the climactic scene, when this burden lies on Stacey’s shoulders. The word that comes to mind when describing Daniel is “passive”.  He’s very nonconfrontational, dispassionate, and… boring. Sorry!

That said, Stacey is a compelling and three-dimensional protagonist, and I did love reading her perspective and revisiting this captivating world that DeLuca has created. I’m hoping that Emily’s sister will be the one to find love in the next book!  (Maybe with Mitch???)

Well Played

I recommend this book to those who want to return to the Willow Creek Renaissance Faire for another romantic getaway.

*Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the arc to review*

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Book Review: The Cipher by Kathe Koja

The Cipher book cover

Title: The Cipher 
Author: Kathe Koja
Genre: Horror
Date of Publication: Initial publication 1991, Rerelease: September 15, 2020
Publisher: Meerkat Press LLC


Synopsis

Nicholas is a would-be poet and video-store clerk with a weeping hole in his hand – weeping not blood, but a plasma of tears…

It began with Nakota and her crooked grin. She had to see the dark hole in the storage room down the hall. She had to make love to Nicholas beside it, and stare into its secretive, promising depths. Then Nakota began her experiments: First, she put an insect into the hole. Then a mouse…

Now from down the hall, the black hole calls out to Nicholas every day and every night. And he will go to it. Because it has already seared his flesh, infected his soul, and started him on a journey of obsession – through its soothing, blank darkness into the blinding core of terror…

Goodreads

My Thoughts

Koja writes with a style that’s not quite like any other.  The tone is gritty and dark and ripe with twisted metaphor.  She employs sentence fragments and run on sentences like no other author can.  She uses almost a stream of consciousness style that grows more and more erratic and confusing as the novel progresses. This in itself instills a level of disorientation in the reader, which mimics the feelings and internal conflict that Nicholas himself is going through.  There were times when I had to reread passages multiple times, because the style and what was happening were so peculiar that I couldn’t follow. I can see this as both a good and a bad thing. It’s clear that Nicholas isn’t in quite the right frame of mind, but as a reader, I wanted a little more clarity as to what was happening.  Not full clarity (I love the abstract style), but a little more concrete so that I wouldn’t have to reread and the impact of what was truly happening could sink in.  

At first, the concept of the funhole is fascinating in its simplicity. However, as the novel progresses, the effects of the funhole become stranger and stranger, which, unfortunately, negatively affected my ability to be immersed in the story.  

I found that the ending of the novel fell a little flat for me. It fits well with the underlying theme of the novel, and I won’t give any spoilers, but I needed more. The book starts off disturbing right off the bat, and while the rest of the events of the book are disturbing and they do escalate in severity, but the level of disturbingness doesn’t escalate. No scene in the novel is more disturbing that than scene in the first couple of chapters (no spoilers, but it was messed up!) This disappointed me just a little.  

While the writing style was hard to follow, this novel is quite a page turner. I was compelled to learn more, to see what Nakota would do next in her insatiable desire to learn more about the funhole, and to see how Nicholas would react.

The Cipher small

I recommend this book to horror fans who read for language and want to read a book that has a dark and perverted style that will keep them turning the pages.

*Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the arc to review*

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Book Review: You Lucky Dog by Julia London

Book Cover

Book Cover

Title: You Lucky Dog
Author: Julia London
Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction
Date of Publication: August 25, 2020
Publisher: Berkley Romance


Synopsis

An accidental dog swap unleashes an unexpected love match in this new romantic comedy from New York Times bestselling author Julia London.

Carly Kennedy’s life is in a spiral. She is drowning in work, her divorced parents are going through their midlife crises, and somehow Carly’s sister convinces her to foster Baxter–a basset hound rescue with a bad case of the blues. When Carly comes home late from work one day to discover that the dog walker has accidentally switched out Baxter for another perkier, friendlier basset hound, she has reached the end of her leash.

When Max Sheffington finds a depressed male basset hound in place of his cheerful Hazel, he is bewildered. But when cute, fiery Carly arrives on his doorstep, he is intrigued. He was expecting the dog walker, not a pretty woman with firm ideas about dog discipline. And Carly was not expecting a handsome, bespectacled man to be feeding her dog mac and cheese. Baxter is besotted with Hazel, and Carly realizes she may have found the key to her puppy’s happiness. For his sake, she starts to spend more time with Hazel and Max, until she begins to understand the appeal of falling for your polar opposite.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

This is a sweet romance with some laugh-out loud funny moments. Carly is a publicist for a fashion designer, and she has to wear his outfits as a part of her promotion–outfits that get her into some truly hilarious trouble when she has to do, well, anything.

The theme of dogs carries throughout the story, and it is a definite strength of the novel. Max and Carly are brought together because of their nearly identical dogs, who are seemingly smitten with one another.  Max’s research at the university deals with the neuroscience of the brain and he uses dogs in his research. His younger brother has autism, and he loves dogs.

This book also has strong family themes, as both Carly and Max have complicated personal lives.  Max’s love for his younger brother makes him a sweet and caring character, despite the fact that he may come across as aloof and overly “scientist-y” to others.

While the tone of the novel itself is sweet, it has a bit of a gloomy feel to it. It’s hard to explain. Maybe it’s because of their personal lives, but I felt quite sad while reading it, even during the funny bits.  Both Max and Carly are under a lot of pressure–Carly with losing her job, her parent’s divorce, the ever-increasing rent of her home, and Max with going up for tenure against the department’s star researcher.  The one highlight in their lives seems to be each other, and of course, their relationship isn’t easy. There’s a major twist about halfway through the book that really puts a wrench in what they have found together, and while it seemed like it was intended to be funny, it did fall flat to me a little.

Book Cover

I recommend this book to lovers of romance novels that have a strong dog-lovers theme.

*Thank you to Netgalley and Berkley for the arc to review*

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Book Review: More than Maybe by Erin Hahn

More than Maybe

More than Maybe Book Cover

Title: More than Maybe
Author: Erin Hahn
Genre: Young Adult, Romance
Date of Publication: July 21, 2020
Publisher: Wednesday Books


Synopsis

“Growing up under his punk rocker dad’s spotlight, eighteen-year-old Luke Greenly knows fame and wants nothing to do with it. His real love isn’t in front of a crowd, it’s on the page. Hiding his gift and secretly hoarding songs in his bedroom at night, he prefers the anonymous comfort of the locally popular podcast he co-hosts with his outgoing and meddling, far-too-jealousy-inspiringly-happy-with-his-long-term-boyfriend twin brother, Cullen. But that’s not Luke’s only secret. He also has a major un-requited crush on music blogger, Vada Carsewell.

Vada’s got a five year plan: secure a job at the Loud Lizard to learn from local legend (and her mom’s boyfriend) Phil Josephs (check), take over Phil’s music blog (double check), get accepted into Berkeley’s prestigious music journalism program (check, check, check), manage Ann Arbor’s summer concert series and secure a Rolling Stone internship. Luke Greenly is most definitely NOT on the list. So what if his self-deprecating charm and out-of-this-world music knowledge makes her dizzy? Or his brother just released a bootleg recording of Luke singing about some mystery girl on their podcast and she really, really wishes it was her?”

Goodreads

My Thoughts

More than Maybe is like a music-nerd’s heaven.  It’s chock full of references to great bands and artists, and as I was reading, I kept wanting to listen to the songs they were talking about.  (In case you were wondering, lounging on the couch listening to The Neighbourhood’s “Sweater Weather” while reading a good book is the perfect way to spend a Monday night!)

While More than Maybe is well written, and I truly connected with the characters, it was missing that X-Factor.  Parts of the book felt a lot stronger than others. In particular, the prologue had me itching to read the novel, but it did start off very slow.  It gradually becomes clear that Vada and Luke already know who each other is (which isn’t entirely obvious from the description of the book), and they’ve been casual acquaintances for the last 3 – 4 years. We don’t get a meet cute, and the very beginning is so vague that it’s hard to tell how long they’ve known each other or how well they know each other until a little too far into the book.  

I loved both Vada and Luke and their dynamic, but I felt like the plot was lacking… something. There weren’t many obstacles for them to overcome in their love, unless of course both of them suffering from varying degrees of shyness is truly an obstacle.  Also–Luke is shy, and he’s had a crush on Vada since they met, BUT he’s had a bunch of girlfriends in the past? That part I don’t get. If he liked Vada, why didn’t he ask her out? There needed to be an explanation for this, and it could have been something simple and cliche like “He didn’t really like the other girls as much as he liked Vada, and he was afraid of rejection”. It would be cheesy, but still a solution to this little plothole.

Both Vada and Luke have issues in their lives that keeps the plot fresh.  Vada wants to go to college, and she’s dealing with navigating her relationship with her deadbeat dad and trying to find the courage to ask him for the money she needs.  Luke’s father is a former rock star, and Luke is dealing with the problem that his family doesn’t respect that he doesn’t want to perform music, and he’s writing his music in secret for himself.  There is a very subtle and well-executed character arc that Luke goes through as he discovers who he is.  (Super vague, I know, but I don’t really want to spoil anything).  

While the plot isn’t quite what I was expecting, this romance is very cute, and the novel has a nice, fulfilling conclusion.  

More than Maybe

I recommend this book to those looking for a music-themed young adult romance.  

*Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the arc to review*

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Book Review: The Love Square by Laura Jane Williams

The Love Square

The Love Square

Title: The Love Square
Author: Laura Jane Williams
Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction
Date of Publication: June 29, 2020
Publisher: Avon Books UK


Synopsis

She’s single. But it can still be complicated…

Penny Bridge has always been unlucky in love.

So she can’t believe it when she meets a remarkable new man.

Followed by another.

And then another…

And all of them want to date her.

Penny has to choose between three. But are any of them The One?

The bestselling author of Our Stop will have you laughing, crying and cheering Penny on in this funny and feel-good exploration of hope, romance and the trust it takes to finally fall in love. Perfect for fans of Mhairi McFarlane’s If I Never Met You and Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

After having devoured Our Stop and falling in love with Laura Jane Williams’ characters, humour, and writing style, I had high hopes for this novel. But this one is nothing like Our Stop, and I think that’s what made me have a hard time with it. It’s much more heartfelt and serious, with very little humour. 

Penny is an old soul, and I say that because while reading the first few chapters, I was sure she was an older woman. When it was revealed that she’s only thirty, I was shocked.  I think it’s a combination of her irritability, her having given up on finding love, the success she’s already found in her career, and her general outlook on life.  I have to say that I wasn’t a fan of Penny’s. She’s indecisive, which I can accept, since that’s honestly a critical aspect of the plot of the book. (If she wasn’t indecisive, she would be able to pick her man right away!)  But one part that really got to me was her jealousy. Can she honestly be upset that the men she’s with aren’t monogamous when she herself isn’t? That said, there was a little bit of slut shaming in this book that really upset me, and honestly made me dissatisfied with the man that she ends up choosing in the end.  

The blurb for the novel is a little misleading, and she isn’t truly dating three guys at the same time.  While the book has feminist themes, I wanted her to genuinely date these three men for the majority of the book, but she only starts to date the third man around the 60% mark. Based on my experience reading Our Stop, I had assumed that there would be humorous scenes where she bumps into one man while on a date with another, and other romantic comedy situations, but this book only has one or two of these, and the tone was all off. I felt more of a sense of dread than being overwhelmed with the giggles like I was during awkward scenes in her previous book.  

I know I shouldn’t be so critical, but when the blurb tells you that you will be laughing and crying while reading a “feel good book” I expect to laugh and “feel good” while reading it. Oh well. I’ll still check out the author’s next book, and I hope that she’ll return to the romantic comedy genre.  

The Love Square

I recommend this book to those looking for a heartfelt novel about a woman trying to figure out her identity.

*Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the arc to review*

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Book Review: The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston

The Princess and the Fangirl

GeekerellaTitle: The Princess and the Fangirl
Author: Ashley Poston
Genre: Young Adult, Romance
Series: Once Upon a Con #2

Date of Publication: April 2, 2019
Publisher: Quirk Books


Synopsis

The Prince and the Pauper gets a modern makeover in this adorable, witty, and heartwarming young adult novel set in the Geekerella universe by national bestselling author Ashley Poston.

Imogen Lovelace is an ordinary fangirl on an impossible mission: save her favorite character, Princess Amara, from being killed off from her favorite franchise, Starfield. The problem is, Jessica Stone—the actress who plays Princess Amara—wants nothing more than to leave the intense scrutiny of the fandom behind. If this year’s ExcelsiCon isn’t her last, she’ll consider her career derailed.

When a case of mistaken identity throws look-a-likes Imogen and Jess together, they quickly become enemies. But when the script for the Starfield sequel leaks, and all signs point to Jess, she and Imogen must trade places to find the person responsible. That’s easier said than done when the girls step into each other’s shoes and discover new romantic possibilities, as well as the other side of intense fandom. As these “princesses” race to find the script-leaker, they must rescue themselves from their own expectations, and redefine what it means to live happily ever after. 

Goodreads

Plot & Characters

I wanted to love this book as much as the first, but unfortunately I had a few qualms about it. I think it’s in the nature of the story itself. It takes place over a single weekend, so already the plot is rushed.  

Because we’re following two separate love stories in this book, I never felt that I really connected with either of the love interests. Half of me wanted this book to just ignore the romance, and focus on a potential sisterly/platonic relationship between Jess and Imogen as they discover the hardships each of them have to face in their own lives. That said, there were some adorkable romantic scenes – particularly when Jess and Harper were singing karaoke, and I wouldn’t trade that scene for anything.  Unfortunately, because we don’t get to dive into the heads of Harper or Ethan, to me, they felt like two-dimensional characters, and I was disappointed in the romances in general.

An important message about toxic fandom that was hinted at in the first book was explored more fully in this one (to be honest, in Geekerella Elle seriously perpetuated that toxicity with her own blog posts about Darien Freeman playing Carmindor in the reboot.)  I appreciated the admission that Jess disliked Elle because of this–it’s a hint of realism in an otherwise over the top sweet book series.  

This isn’t a spoiler because nothing came out of it, but why was there a whole scene in the beginning of the book when Imogen was talking about her moms having a sperm donor to have her, and griping about how much she must look like her dad, if there wasn’t going to be a realization/discovery somewhere along the line that she and Jess are half-sisters? They’re not, at least, if they are, it’s not discovered in the book, so I’m assuming they aren’t. One of my favourite relationship types in literally any book is sisterly bonds, so I was super disappointed that this was hinted at, but then nothing came out of it.

Worldbuilding

I mentioned in the review for Geekerella that the worldbuilding was one of its strong suits.  While that’s the case in the this second installment in the series, unfortunately the Starfield TV series isn’t heavily described, and the reader has to recall what was revealed in Geekerella to fully understand the references. I read the two books nearly back to back, so I didn’t have a problem with this, but others might assume this book is a standalone, when this is not quite the case. You can catch on about what happened in the previous book easily enough, but the Starfield references, which are what truly makes this series phenomenal, won’t make as much sense if you haven’t read Geekerella already.

The Princess and the Fangirl

I recommend this book to those who loved the first, and who want some more ExcelsiCon magic in their lives. 

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Book Review: Up Close and Personal by Kathryn Freeman

up close and personal

Up Close And Personal

Title: Up Close and Personal
Author: Kathryn Freeman
Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction
Date of Publication: June 12, 2020
Publisher: One More Chapter, HarperCollins UK


Synopsis

“Sizzling chemistry, a page-turning will they/won’t they romance and the hottest twist on one of your favourite movies…

British actor Zac Edwards is the latest heartthrob to hit the red carpets. Hot, talented and rich, he sends women wild…all except one.

Close protection officer Kat Parker hasn’t got time to play celebrity games. She has one job: to protect Zac from the stalker that seems to be dogging his every move.

Zac might get her hot under her very starched collar, but Kat’s a professional – and sleeping with Zac is no way part of her remit…” – Goodreads

My Thoughts

I really really wanted to love this book. A gender reversal of The Bodyguard? Colour me intrigued! 

Right off the bat, the sexual attraction between Zac and Kat is laid on a little too thick. When they first meet by accident at an event, Zac doesn’t know that she is his new bodyguard.  But once he finds out that she’s his bodyguard, he’s still set out to be with her.  She wants to be with him, but she needs to keep it professional. They both have secrets that they’re keeping from each other, and the unraveling of these backstories is a strength of the novel. However, they fall in love with each other far too quickly.  Maybe I’ve been spoiled with the romance novels I’ve been reading lately, but I wanted to see more connection between them before they fell in love.  That said, their interactions are quite cute at times, if a little juvenile. They’re thirty years old, but they’re acting more smitten and sweet than the 16 year olds in the last young adult romance I read.

That said, if you want to read this book because you want to read about a mere commoner falling in love with a celebrity, then this is the book for you!

Kat is a professional bodyguard, and it’s difficult for her to guard a client who’s so darn alluring.  This is probably the most relatable part of the book.  She’s trying her hardest not to be distracted by Zac’s presence, because one wrong move could get him killed.  Zac doesn’t seem to understand this, and he does his best to distract her with his ridiculous handsomeness.  This is a little unrealistic and an unlikable personality trait, considering the fact that he has a secret past, and he is genuinely worried that someone might be targeting him because of it, and that it isn’t just an unstable fan who has him in their crosshairs.  

There are a few little inconsistencies in the storytelling. The dialogue between Zac and Kat, while charming and witty, can often be quite stilted. I loved the way that Zac talks–using overly formal language that is reflective of his upbringing–but the inner dialogues of the two protagonists were cringey at times. Kat comments on his use of “fancy words” like “purgatory”, but then she uses the word “incorrigible” to describe him. I’m pretty sure “incorrigible” is a far fancier word than “purgatory”, but maybe that’s just me.  Also, Zac is a famous movie star, one who has his very own stalker, but where is the paparazzi? I don’t think they made an appearance more than during that a scene early in the novel.  

The mystery plot of Zac having a stalker was quite intriguing.  I found that the suspense plotline was wrapped up a little too neatly, and a little too quickly for my liking. Even the obligatory romance novel scene where Kat and Zac fight near the end seemed contrived. I wasn’t exactly sure what they were fighting over, and it became clear during the scene where they forgive one another and profess the undying love that they’ve had since first laying eyes on each other that they didn’t know what they were fighting over either. Groan.

up close and personal

Despite my critique, this is a sweet, fun, and quick read that’s perfect for a night in.  I recommend this book to those wanting to read a cutesy insta-love romance story.

*Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the ebook to review*

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Book Review: Beauty by Robin McKinley

Beauty

Book Cover Beauty

Title: Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast
Author: Robin McKinley
Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tales, Romance, Young Adult
Date of Publication: 1993, reprinted 2018
Publisher: Greenwillow Books


Synopsis

A strange imprisonment…

Beauty has never liked her nickname. She is thin and awkward; it is her two sisters who are the beautiful ones. But what she lacks in looks, she can perhaps make up for in courage.

When her father comes home with the tale of an enchanted castle in the forest and the terrible promise he had to make to the Beast who lives there, Beauty knows she must go to the castle, a prisoner of her own free will. Her father protests that he will not let her go, but she answers, “Cannot a Beast be tamed?”

Robin McKinley’s beloved telling illuminates the unusual love story of a most unlikely couple, Beauty and the Beast. – Goodreads

Plot

I wanted to love this book, but it lacked for me in plot. The book concentrates on Beauty’s family life prior to moving into the castle to live with the Beast. This is the focus of the book, which I had not been expecting at all. I wanted to read about the castle and whatever mysterious magic goes on there, but this only took up the last little bit of the book.  While the events that unfolded in her home life with her father and her sisters were interesting, I couldn’t quite enjoy it because I was waiting for the real story. It almost felt like two books ideas were slapped together, when they would have served better as two separate stories.

Language & Setting 

The major appeal for this story is the writing style. Robin McKinley has an exquisite writing style, and the way that she describes the settings and the characters makes it seem like they could leap off the page and into the real world.

Characters

I had a hard time connecting with Beauty, even though she was an ordinary girl with a love for books. It might be an artifact of the writing style – when the writing focuses on style and beauty of language, I personally find it harder to connect with the protagonist.  While we frequently get glimpses into her head and what she’s thinking, I never connected with her on a deeper level. 

Unfortunately, her family was far more developed than any of the characters in the castle. We don’t get to truly meet any of the servants, since they’re invisible, yet it’s understood that they’re there. The Beast is somewhat of a caricature, and, to be honest, I’m not entirely sure why Beauty fell in love with him.  However, if Beauty’s time in the castle had made up as much of the book as the events leading up to it, I do feel that I would have had enough time to grow to appreciate the Beast and his idiosyncracies.

Beauty

I recommend this book to those who are looking for a different take on a magical medieval life, but aren’t expecting the story to exactly mirror the movie.  There is a much greater focus on her family than on her time with the Beast, and knowing this before reading the story might increase your enjoyment of it.

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