April 6th was a huge day of romance releases for me because I have been eagerly anticipating the sophomore novels of Martha Waters, Sarah Hogle, and Rosie Danan since I finished up their debuts last year! To Love and To Loathe by Martha Waters is a historical romance novel I was lucky enough to receive a review copy of (thank you, Netgalley!), but I picked up a physical copy because I wasn’t in the mood to read on a screen. Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle is a contemporary romance set in the Smoky Mountains, which was such a delight because I live in the same general area. And The Intimacy Experiment by Rosie Danan is another contemporary romance novel featuring Naomi, only one of the absolute best secondary characters of all time. So getting to see her shine as the lead was delightful.
Now let’s jump into the reviews, shall we?
To Love and To Loathe by Martha Waters
I really enjoyed Waters’ debut, To Have and To Hoax because it was highly amusing and I anticipated this book would bring a similar energy, with the twist of having a pact and a wager. Honestly, because of the sex pact baked into the premise (Jeremy has had his bedroom skills insulted and, tbh, rather inexplicably, asks Diana to be his lover), I anticipated this book being much spicier. I enjoyed the steam level just fine, but it seems worth noting that despite the premise, this book isn’t really outside the usual for a traditionally published romance novel. Anyway, all that to say, I did think this book kept Waters’ humor and the characters were still intriguing. But there were a few concrete things that irked me.
If you don’t want to read any spoilers, please just go ahead and scroll to my review of Twice Shy because there’s no real way for me to be honest about To Love and To Loathe without discussing these things that bothered me. (I’m sorry!)
The first thing that really bothered me about this is the way that Lady Helen’s sexuality was handled. She is, presumably a lesbian (sapphist is the word used in the book), which Jeremy and Diana discover separately. Diana, inexplicably, takes it upon herself to share this secret, this ruinous secret, with Emily and Violet just so she can have this conversation about how marriage isn’t a completely awful prospect for everyone. It was… unnecessary. I did really like Lady Helen in general, once we know her motivations for things, she becomes an incredibly intriguing character, but the disclosure of her sexuality without her consent bothered me a lot. Also, Lady Helen’s paramour is her lady’s maid and… I feel like I would have been more comfortable with the whole situation if Lady Helen’s paramour was someone with the same amount of power as her.
Moving on from that aspect, the fight at the end of the book, the third act break up, was honestly baffling. Like… They were communicating past each other and I KNOW that’s not exactly unrealistic, but it felt so ridiculous that I honestly cannot even describe to you. It’s lucky that the resolution left me satisfied because otherwise I think the breakup would have really hurt my overall enjoyment of this book.
So all that to say, I still really like Waters’ writing style and I’m looking forward to Emily’s book, which has thankfully been announced!
Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle
It’s no secret that I adored You Deserve Each Other to the tune of, it was one of my favorite books last year. So to say that I was excited for Twice Shy is probably just a bit of an understatement. Not to mention Ally was raving about it on twitter (she also has a full review here) and Nick had this incredible review where she said it’s one of her favorites of the year so my anticipation kept getting higher and higher. And when I first started it, I was sort of… underwhelmed, so I was nervous.
The thing about Twice Shy is that the romance is a slow burn between two people who don’t necessarily seem to like one another in the beginning and then by the end of the book, they love each other SO HARD. And that’s how I felt about the book. I loved it more than I can really express to you, and yet, the first chapter has Maybell living out a daydream in her Coffee Shop AU and those daydreams keep sort of popping up. It’s a weird format sort of situation, but oh my god, the way Hogle uses it as a way to bring Wesley and Maybell together was literally to die for. So I forgave it. BUT I wanted to mention that it is disconcerting because if you’re finding it confusing, I really, really think it’s worth pushing through.
So let’s talk about why it’s worth it. In a word? Wesley. He is without doubt, one of the absolute best heroes I’ve read in years. And! This book is written in a single perspective from Maybell’s POV. But Wesley comes across as grumpy because of his social anxiety and he’s so soft and so sweet and genuinely, just the best most wholesome soft character. He will put himself out if it means that Maybell’s life is a little easier. He’s an artist and he’s vulnerable. I love him so much.
Maybell is… struggling. Because of the way she grew up, she is a people pleaser to a fault, and I think some people will struggle with her as a lead character. But Maybell is so deeply kind and watching her start to rebuild her life is really, really satisfying. I do wish that we had gotten to spend more time with these characters, but I also think that everything we got was glorious and I loved it so much. Honestly, if you want a well written review with like, coherent thoughts, I would actually direct you to Ally and Nick’s words because my brain is still !!!! about this book and not really ready to make a coherent review.
The Intimacy Experiment by Rosie Danan
I am once again here to acknowledge that there are technically flaws in this book, to say that I understand why this book will not be for everyone, and to state unequivocally that I adored this book with my whole heart and will not be taking questions at this time. (Okay, just kidding, you can ask questions.)
So, The Intimacy Experiment follows boss babe, Naomi Grant, a former porn star turned co-CEO of Shameless, a website I really wish existed, that basically teaches people how to have better sex. Naomi wants to teach classes and she really would like if some university would let her be an instructor for them. This is where the plot immediately seems to have fallen apart for some people who are like, “she built a whole platform, she could also take her show on the road under the Shameless umbrella.” And to those people, I say, very excellent point. However, this logical way of dealing with how to get what Naomi wants aside, I didn’t really care about how we got to the point of Naomi teaching a course on Modern Intimacy for Rabbi Ethan Cohen. Ethan is the other love interest and he is… a delight. He is soft and sweet and I love him so much.
Okay, so, let’s talk about why this book works for me. (A) Apparently I like slow burns with pining. Who knew? (Everyone?) (B) This book is about, in part, Naomi coming back to Judaism. It turns out, I really love books about people coming back to their faith. (C) Ethan is genuinely such a soft man. (D) There’s this scene that just… WORKED for me, even though I get the impression other people thought it felt really out of character. For me, Naomi is trying something new in this book. She’s leaning into maybe not having to be strong all the time and learning to expose the tender parts of her in a safe way. But it’s never really safe (emotionally) to expose the tender parts of oneself, you know? Anyway, as she sort of starts to be soft with Ethan… My whole heart. (E) I loved the seminar scenes! Loved them!
But, as I said, there are flaws. Namely, the third act break up just… comes with a lot of stuff that makes it feel sort of out of place. Did I appreciate the speech Naomi gives? So, so much. Does it make sense overall? Not at all. But again, I didn’t care! Logic has no place here. (Just trying to be honest!) And I do think this book could have been strengthened with some more private conversations with Ethan and Naomi. I find it a valid criticism from people to say that. However, I do think that Ethan and Naomi’s connection was very much on page and I absolutely without a doubt believe in their HEA.
So, there you have it! Three highly anticipated ARCs for me and they all worked really well for me! Have you read any of them? If so, what did you think?
8 responses to “Reading Three of My Most Anticipated Books of April: To Love and To Loathe, Twice Shy, and The Intimacy Experiment”
I somehow missed Martha Waters and I’m intrigued by the humor!
Yes, Wesley is definitely worth the read. I loved Maybell’s energy, but I wanted to fold Wesley into a gentle hug all the time.
I liked The Intimacy Experiment but it wasn’t a complete winner for me. I really loved puppy Ethan though.
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It was honestly so nice to read two gentle and sweet men back to back for me. Like… What a win. Now if someone would like to introduce me to one IRL, that would be IDEAL. Lol
If you try her, you’ll definitely have to let me know what you think!
I think I felt the same way about Martha Waters book. I really enjoyed the first book but was definitely expecting this one to be hotter based on the premise. Your comment about the nonconsensual outing is also on point. I’m still looking forward to Emily’s book too. I think that will be better for me.
Oh my gosh! Your opening for Twice Shy made me so nervous!! I thought you hated it! I’m so happy you liked it though. Wesley really is one of the best romance heroes to ever be written and I’m glad you feel the same way.
I’m thrilled you enjoyed TIE too! I’ve been a little sad seeing friends not love it as much but I can also see where everyone is coming from. This is very much of a more introspective sort of read and it is slow, but it worked for me.
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My only issue with Martha Waters is that I honestly thought I would love this one! But I’m still hoping for the best.
Ahh, I can see why my opening would have made you think that! But no, I loved it. I just figured I would get the bad out of the way before being like, “So, this is still five stars.” Lolol
I do get where people are coming from on TIE, but it is also making me sad. I really loved it. The third act break up was questionable, but otherwise, brilliant.
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