Yet another triumph for Megan Frampton in this infectiously witty, thoroughly enjoyable series! I guarantee you will fall in love with the impetuous Octavia and the cautious Gabriel. Both products of their scandalous, reprobate fathers who thought nothing of gambling their children's lives and legacies away with the turn of a card. Octavia and Gabriel arrive at Octavia's dilapidated home with each claiming it as rightfully theirs. But first, Octavia must find proof that predates Gabriel's voucher that states it is his. They agree to live there together while searching for the proof and cleaning the house up. A fake engagement appeases the local villagers. In the ensuing month, they find themselves holding a gangster at bay, hosting an event to pay back said gangster and falling in love. I fell in love with Octavia, Gabriel and the delightful family of villagers who help them in their quest. I read it in one day - it was that good!
Wednesday, June 29, 2022
Friday, June 24, 2022
The randomly chosen winner of
the Rogues to Riches series by
Grace Burrowes is:
Please send your full name and mailing address to:
theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com
Thursday, June 23, 2022
It wouldn’t be the theater without a few theatrics…
Becoming a famous playwright is all Winnie ever dreamed about. For now, though, she'll have to settle for assisting the celebrated, sharp-witted feminist playwright Juliette Brassard. When an experimental theater company in London, England, decides to stage Juliette's most renowned play, The Lights of Trafalgar, Winnie and Juliette pack their bags and hop across the pond.
But the trip goes sideways faster than you can say "tea and crumpets." Juliette stubbornly butts heads with the play's director and Winnie is left stage-managing their relationship. Meanwhile, Winnie's own work seems to have stalled, and though Juliette keeps promising to read it, she always has some vague reason why she can't. Then, Juliette's nephew, Liam, enters stage left. He's handsome, he's smart, he is devastatingly British…and his family ties to Juliette pose a serious problem, forcing Winnie to keep their burgeoning relationship on the down-low. What could go wrong?
Balancing a production seemingly headed for disaster, a secret romance and the sweetest, most rambunctious rescue dog, will Winnie save the play, make her own dreams come true and find love along the way—or will the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune get the best of her?
***This review contains spoilers ***
I wanted to love this book. It appeals to my interest in England and my enjoyment of theater, and it has a dog. In the end, I came away with mixed feelings. There were many things I liked about this story but some that just seriously didn’t work for me.
On the plus side, Winnie is hard-working, loyal, and affectionate. Her insecurity about the play she’s trying to write is explained well, making it believable and sympathetic. Liam is a nice guy who has had a rough time lately despite business success. He’s at loose ends personally but for understandable reasons.
Juliette generally comes across well despite being a bit self-centered, and Roshni, her other assistant, is a lively, warm, loyal and encouraging friend to Winnie. In fact, I would say she’s Winnie’s closest friend based the way the two interact. That was one of my problems with the ending.
The other supporting characters, the play’s director, her partner, and the cast have minor roles, but the director really shines. She’s professional, talented, and not intimidated by Juliette’s fame. She’s also helpful to Winnie in a way Juliette hasn’t been.
Winnie’s first date with Liam is a lovely tour of London with beautifully written banter and more earnest conversation.
On the downside, the story starts slowly. There’s more than I needed about Juliette’s career and Winnie’s stalled efforts as a playwright in the first two chapters. To me, the story really begins in London. The action picks up once the characters arrive there.
Juliette gives her assistants the occasional great perk, such as tickets to a sold-out show, but doesn’t take much interest in them personally. She promises to help Winnie with her play but never follows through. That’s not bad in itself, especially since she’s not the heroine, but it’s part of my problem with the ending.
Juliette more or less orders Winnie to go out blind dates via an app so Juliette can get stories that might break her out of whatever is stalling her playwriting efforts. Winnie agrees to go, although reluctantly. At one of these dates, Liam appears at the café that’s the designated meeting place. When he finds out about the planned meeting, he sticks around and crashes it. Or he would’ve if Winnie hadn’t agreed to see him later.
The banter between Winnie and Liam is generally great, but every once in a while, Winnie says something harsh that throws him off his stride. Yet this doesn’t lead her to moderate her approach. At one point, he drops by the flat where Winnie is working with Juliette, and Winnie thinks of him as a gigolo. This was not depicted as humorous and threw me off. He isn’t dating anyone else, she isn’t paying him to date her, and I saw no reason for applying that label to this nice guy.
A neighbor offers to watch the stray dog Winnie rescued. Since Juliette knows his family, Winnie agrees. He seems like a nice guy until he mentions his fluffy pajamas and his bedroom slippers to her during their first conversation. Then she takes an interest in the slippers, tries them on and even borrows them. From this guy she just met. For me, this crosses a line on both their parts, and I found it off-putting.
Juliette and her sister are estranged. When her sister, Isabelle, drops by in hopes of seeing Juliette, who isn’t home, she and Winnie talk some about the sisters’ shared history. At one point, Isabelle mentions her husband, and Winnie asks her whether Juliette liked him. That also crosses a line for me. If Winnie wants to know how Juliette once felt about her brother-in-law, she should ask Juliette.
Winnie’s intrusive behavior grows worse. She learns Juliette had a serious relationship when she lived in England years before. When she and Juliette discuss it, Juliette seems to have nostalgic feelings about it. So Winnie decides to track down Juliette’s former love and lies to Liam to get him to help her. She then asks the man questions about his history with Juliette.
Undercurrents between Winnie and Juliette erupt eventually, severing their relationship. Winnie goes on to success as a playwright, and Liam sets up a meeting between the two. Winnie and Juliette talk through their differences. Several years later, they’re on a more equal footing. All that is well done—until the moment Winnie says Juliette was her dearest friend. This didn’t work for me because Juliette hadn’t behaved like a good friend and had done some manipulative and underhanded things.
No hint of their being good friends appears in the early part of the book, though a good relationship implicitly happens between the epilogs. If anyone in the book is Winnie’s closest friend, it’s her fellow assistant, Roshni. They support, encourage, and trust each other throughout. They keep each other’s secrets while Winnie is keeping secrets from Juliette.
The romantic ending is handled beautifully and is satisfying. The conflict between Winnie and Juliette, for the reasons noted above, is not.
Near the end of the book, there is a lovely scene between Winnie and her stepmother, but it didn’t seem necessary to the overall story. While the book contains some references to Winnie liking her stepmother but regretting that they aren’t close, this isn’t a major element of the plot.
Overall, there is much to like about these characters and the story. The relationship between Winnie and Liam develops nicely despite the occasional stumble. I had some serious issues, though, with the bits I didn’t feel worked well. Despite that, I do recommend the book, especially for Anglophiles and theater fans.
Tuesday, June 21, 2022
Jada Townsend-Matthews is the most reviled woman in America after turning down a proposal on a reality dating show. When she comes home to lick her wounds, Jada finds herself working at San Diego's newest cupcake bakery, Sugar Blitz, alongside the uptight owner and professional football player Donovan Dell.
When a reporter mistakenly believes Jada and Donovan are an item, they realize they can use the misunderstanding to their advantage to help the struggling bakery and rehabilitate Jada's image. Faking a relationship should be simple, but sometimes love is the most unexpected ingredient.
What a thoroughly charming story! I read it in one day. Will probably read it again. It made me smile, laugh out loud, sigh with delight, and crave cupcakes. So. Many. Cupcakes.
Jada is lying low, trying to get her life back on track after the social media sh*tstorm that followed her refusal of the final proposal on a reality dating show when she's upended again by a surprise family ultimatum. Donovan, a pro football player, along with two teammates, has just realized his dream of opening a cupcake shop but business is falling off rather than picking up steam. Fate sets them up as adversaries, her grandmother (his boss), sets them up as co-workers, and an unexpected twist has them fake dating. Did I mention that they also have off the charts chemistry and his (meddling) friends think they'd make a perfect match? Reality dating shows, football, enemies-to-lovers, and cupcakes. It's like Jamie Wesley wrote this book just for me!
I adored this couple with their snappy banter, simmering chemistry, and surprising work partnership. I loved that Wesley gave them the necessary time to work through personal issues and find their footing before leading them into a romantic relationship. I loved Jada's evolution, how she slowly began to discover her strengths, how Donovan's perception of her shifted in the process, and his defense and support of her against naysayers. I enjoyed their layers, their teasing humor, and the emotional baggage that had to be sorted. It was just enough to give complexity and texture to the lighthearted, humorous parts of the story. And I loved the secondary cast! There's so much potential there for future stories and I, for one, cannot wait to read them.
I enthusiastically recommend adding this one to your summer reading list but a word of advice: you might want to make a batch of cupcakes to nibble on before you turn that first page. Just sayin'.
Monday, June 20, 2022
Emerging journalist Adina Gellar is done with dating in New York City. If she’s learned anything from made-for-TV romance movies, it’s that she’ll find love in a small town—the kind with harvest festivals, delightful but quirky characters, and scores of delectable single dudes. So when a big-city real estate magnate targets tiny Pleasant Hollow for development, Adi knows she’s found the perfect story—one that will earn her a position at a coveted online magazine, so she can finally start adulting for real . . . and maybe even find her dream man in the process.
Only Pleasant Hollow isn’t exactly “pleasant.” There’s no charming bakery, no quaint seasonal festivals, and the residents are more ambivalent than welcoming. The only upside is Finn Adams, who’s more mouthwatering than the homemade cherry pie Adi can’t seem to find—even if he does work for the company she’d hoped to bring down. Suddenly Adi has to wonder if maybe TV got it all wrong after all. But will following her heart mean losing her chance to break into the big time?
Saturday, June 18, 2022
Friday, June 17, 2022
Thursday, June 16, 2022
Wednesday, June 15, 2022
Alone in the world, Tae Holmes and her mother April pretty much raised each other, but as Tae starts asking questions about the father she’s never met, April, for the first time in her life, goes silent. To make matters worse, Tae is dangerously close to broke and just manages to avoid financial meltdown when she lands a shiny new contract with an adventure company for athletes with disabilities and wounded warriors.