August 25th is a day with so many fantastic releases! Aside from the three I am reviewing here, you can also pick up Better Than People by Roan Parrish, Here to Stay by Adriana Herrera, Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews, and Like Lovers Do by Tracey Livesay. So, basically, if your wallet wasn’t already weeping by preordering those books, you can also get Scandalous Secrets by Synithia Williams, Can’t Help Falling by Cara Bastone, and Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles, all of which are out yesterday! I myself preordered three of these and have every intention of picking up the others as soon as my wallet recovers. Thanks go to Harlequin, Wednesday Books, and Netgalley for the advanced copies of these three gorgeous books! (Note: I read both my e-arc and listened to Where Dreams Descend in an audiobook I purchased for myself yesterday so this review wouldn’t be too terribly late.) So let’s get started!
Scandalous Secrets by Synithia Williams
I really enjoyed this follow up to Forbidden Promises! I stand by the fact that it reads like a Shonda Rhimes show in a lot of ways, just with much more focus on the characters winding up happy at the end. It follows Byron, who is running for U.S. Senate (which really just doesn’t make sense based on his campaign strategy, but whatever) from North Carolina, and Zoe, single mom and Byron’s friend… Essentially, back in college, Byron lied for Zoe and said that her baby was his because Zoe’s actual significant other was an abusive jerk. (CW for discussion of domestic violence) Although Byron proposed at the time, Zoe left town. Now, Byron needs her to do him a favor because he’s being blackmailed about being an absentee father. The problem is Zoe’s getting emails again that seem like they might be from her ex. Oh, and also, Byron is engaged. To somebody else.
I really love this very messed up family, but also I side eye them so much. So many machinations. There’s something about Bryon with Zoe and her daughter that just gets me too. I think Byron is a really good guy, who is capable of making really dumb decisions, like staying with his fiancé whom he’s not in love with for entirely too long. Zoe has lingering trust issues and issues about being controlled based on her past relationship and I thought those issues were presented realistically, though I did occasionally feel like maybe she should have healed a little more than she had. That said, I think Zoe was a great character and I understood her. And I loved getting to know Elaina a little more and I cannot wait for her book!
Can’t Help Falling by Cara Bastone
Oh y’all, as cheesy as this sounds, like the title, I can’t help falling in love with Cara Bastone’s writing or her stories. In book one, there is crackling energy between Tyler and Fin and watching all of that crackling energy come bubbling up was incredible. I think some people are likely going to struggle with how harshly Fin tells him off in the beginning and how long it takes for her to apologize. But, for me, the sort of very interested to extremely shut down and not interested, to tentative almost allies to oops is this a crush???? to oh crap, I’m in love was literally everything. The journey is absolutely something to behold and I cannot recommend enough.
We meet Fin and Tyler in the first book in the series, Just a Heartbeat Away, which is phenomenal. Fin is a psychic and so there’s a lot about energy and crystals and auras because of that. It feels natural to me, not forced, but Tyler is a bit of skeptic. Fin was raised by her aunt because her mom abandoned her as a child. She has this intense desire to become a foster parent because of her experiences. Tyler, who has always been very attracted to Fin, is much more of a chill, dude bro, who definitely does not want children. Things go pretty disastrously when he asks her out, but then his entire life is changed when his 14 year old half sister is abandoned by her own mom. Fin both wants to repair her relationship with Ty, well, kind of, and wants to help Kylie adjust to living in NYC. This slow build is so beautiful. I’m honestly so in love with Bastone’s writing and I just want everyone to experience the joy of her stories!
Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles
As I predicted around 80% of the way through this book, I finished it and am now desperate for the sequel. This YA fantasy debut is wildly compelling and beautifully written and I am so confused. Essentially, Kallia leaves Hellfire House to compete in this competition against the wishes of Jack, the proprietor of Hellfire House. Kallia and Jack are both magicians. In this city, Glorian, where the competition is being held, Kallia finds friends and enters the competition, which is where she meets Demarco, who is one of the judges.
There is so much chemistry happening in this book between Kallia and Jack and Kallia and Demarco and I really appreciated that aspect as I think it was well done in creating a compelling… love triangle type thing. But I also really appreciated the line drawn in showing Jack’s behavior for what it was. The intensity of the quasi romantic and romantic relationships here made the friendship that sparks between Kallia and Aaros more disappointing because I didn’t understand where it came from. They went from zero to best friends so quickly.
Despite that and despite my general confusion over what was happening a lot of the time, I really, really enjoyed the magical adventures and I think the world building is ridiculously compelling and I’m so excited for the next book in the series to really blow this world wide open. I will say that I read part of this with my eyeballs and listened to parts of it and I think if you can, I would recommend the reading with the eyeballs. There are some weird narration things like the fact that Demarco’s accent is wildly inconsistent in my opinion.
What August 25th releases are you excited about? Let me know!