February is going to be a great month for reading and these three books are a testament to that fact. I was fortunate enough to receive advanced copies of The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa, Temporary Wife Temptation by Jayci Lee, and Blame It on the Billionaire by Naima Simone from Netgalley, thanks to the publicity teams at Avon and Harlequin. Shout out to them because I loved my time with all three of these books. So let’s dive in to talking about them.
The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa, out on February 4, 2020
The book is about wedding planner, Carolina, having to deal with her ex-fiancé who literally left her the day of her wedding and his brother, who encouraged him to do it. Said brother, Max, is desperate to escape his brother’s shadow and if he has to work with Carolina to accomplish that, so be it. Turns out, Max is a sweetheart, but Carolina isn’t quite ready to forgive and forget.
So first, let me just say that you should definitely get some Brazilian cheese bread before you get started, but not the frozen kind that’s gluten free because it doesn’t taste anything like the book describes, because you’re going to need it on hand as you read this book. It’s full of description of food and other things, like people and places. But what I think I liked most about the book was Lina. She tries so hard to be strong at all times because in her experience, showing emotion has been treated as a weakness. Here’s a quote that I loved:
Having learned my own harsh lessons when I was a wide-eyed innocent, I now know the rules well: We must never let our emotions get the better of us; doing so is either a sign of weakness, one that diminishes our well-earned respect, or a mark of combativeness, which will cause people to say we’re irrational. And as women–women of color, more specifically–we simply can’t afford to be perceived in those terms.
So Lina has a lot of walls, but those walls make sense. I really loved her friendships with her cousin and her assistant. I think that all of the complexities of the family dynamics for both Max and Lina were superbly well handled. Sosa is really great at bringing her full cast of characters to life and I fell so in love with Max’s friendship with Dean that I am desperate for Dean to have his own book. I absolutely adored him as a character.
Overall, the slow burn relationship between Lina and Max is really beautiful. There’s a fantastic scene following the scoping out of a wedding venue for the project and I just loved everything about that entire exchange. I just don’t want to spoil anything for you!
Temporary Wife Temptation by Jayci Lee out February 4, 2020
First of all, this cover is absolutely stunning and the Korean cover models reflect the characters inside. Garrett Song is about to become CEO of his family’s company when his grandmother tells him she’s chosen his bride. Unwilling to go along with his grandmother, but unwilling to slight her, he tells her he already has a fiancé, and manages to convince Natalie Sobol to go along with his scheme. Natalie needs a husband herself, to make her seem like a better guardian choice for her orphaned niece, which is why she agrees.
Secondly, this is one of only a handful of category romances I have ever read and at first I wanted to brush off some of my criticisms of the book as things specific to this style of romance, but after reading Blame It on the Billionaire, I know that’s not true. So my criticism is that this book is about a marriage of convenience and yet, we miss so many key scenes that you would expect to see in favor of time jumps to other scenes. For example, early in the book, there’s a line that makes you think you’re about to see Garrett tell his grandmother about Natalie, but you don’t. Instead, there’s a time jump ahead to the wedding so you miss out on seeing a lot of the whole moving in and negotiating boundaries scenes that you would expect with a marriage of convenience story. I’m not saying that these scenes can’t be skipped, but well, I like those scenes, but also, it made the story feel like disjointed in a way.
Nonetheless, I thought this was really fun and I’m really excited to see what Jayci Lee does with her debut full length romance, A Sweet Mess, which is out this summer. And I liked it enough that I’ll be reading the other books in this particular series, I’m sure.
Blame It on the Billionaire by Naima Simone out on February 1, 2020
Naima Simone never disappoints. Blame It on the Billionaire was tightly plotted and full of emotion and also really steamy sexy times. I loved literally every page and devoured it in one sitting. The book is about Grayson and Nadia, who work for the same company (Grayson as CEO and Nadia as assistant to one of the head management types), but meet for real for real at Grayson’s family home where Nadia has been summoned to give her boss a new… shirt? Tie? Anyway, the power goes out and this house is FANCY because they can’t even get out of the hallway. So they bone. Obvs. And then, not to spoil anything, but there’s a fake engagement.
The first on page encounter between Gray and Nadia is so sexy and I really loved how that seemed to engender a lot of emotion in Gray the next time he saw Nadia. Naima Simone is brilliant at infusing her scenes with emotion and I think she does it in rather subtle ways. So as we progress through these scenes that read fairly quickly, you can see Nadia forgetting that she said she wouldn’t fall for Grayson and Grayson letting Nadia in when he doesn’t let his guard down for others.
Nadia is such a fascinating character because on the one hand, she is so confident and impressive in the way she sort of goes for what she wants, but at the same time, you can see all the times she has sacrificed what she wants for what’s best for her brother. I liked the push-pull of that dynamic. Grayson, too, is a great character with his self-perception and how Nadia sees him (and how we see him as the reader) not quite lining up. Gray seems to think he’s quite a bit harder than he really is. More cruel, somehow. But in reality, Gray is just a man who wants to be loved, but has tried to convince himself that he doesn’t need it and doesn’t want it. Fortunately for us, he falls for Nadia anyway.
So there you have it! Those are the three early February ARCs I was lucky enough to read! I would actually recommend all of them because I really liked my time with each one, but I think if I had to choose, my favorite was probably Blame it on the Billionaire.