And today I have two more February releases to review for you! I was fortunate enough to receive advanced copies of both Good Girl Complex by Elle Kennedy and Hunt the Stars by Jessie Mihalik via Netgalley, but I wound up purchasing both audiobooks from Audible so I listened to them instead. And now, let’s dive into my thoughts!
Good Girl Complex by Elle Kennedy
Was this book for me? No. Should I have just DNF’d it at 35% when I had that realization? Yes, probably. But did I? No. And that is because even though I wasn’t loving the plot, I made my brain reset this book to consider it women’s fiction and I do love women going after their dreams and figuring out what I want. So, while that helped enough to get me through the rest of the book, it, uh, didn’t actually help me enjoy it more. I’ll explain, but first, let’s talk about what this book is.
Cooper is a life-long Avalon Bay man. He was born there, raised there, and has no real intentions of leaving. It is therefore difficult for him (and his friends) to deal with the uber rich college students that like to treat the town like they own the place. He gets into a fight with Preston Kincaid and ‘lo and behold, a scheme is born to bring this rich jerk down a peg.
Enter Mac. Mac is a very astute business woman who is entering her first year at college because she was only able to convince her parents to give her one year as a gap year to grow her business. She is a congressman’s daughter and there’s a lot about his public image to maintain. She’s also Preston Kincaid’s girlfriend. But when she meets Cooper, she’s attracted to him and things progress and, of course, she’s pulled into this scheme.
Now, let’s talk about what will make some romance readers struggle with this book. There is cheating. Preston is a jerk, but for some, that may not matter. Now, let’s talk about why I, personally, struggled with this book. The deception plot is too much and doesn’t satisfactorily resolve itself. Does it make sense? Yes. Do I tend to enjoy books with deception plots? No. Hence, I should have quit at 35% when I realized where this whole book was going. Besides that, the EK books I have read and loved before do have arrogant heroes with a secret soft underbelly, but there were things Cooper said and did that I felt were very cringeworthy and the spiciness I expect from EK was a lot more tame, which impacted the character issues for me. She usually does a good bit of character work in her spicy scenes so reducing the heat level actually did have an overall negative impact for me reading this book.
Now, I mentioned that I told myself to just think of this book as women’s fiction, but still struggled with it so let’s pick up on that thread. As a “good girl” myself, someone who hates to break the rules, and always struggled with that growing up and through college, etc., the representation of that did not feel real to me at all. I don’t really know how to explain that, but her growth ARC didn’t track for me in a way that made me cheer for her. Mac is fine. I like her. But… I felt like she lacked agency within her own story is probably the best way to put it. It felt like she was pushed into making every decision instead of owning her decisions, with the exception of one, which still wasn’t explored quite well enough for my tastes.
Anyway, all that to say, there is an excellent dog companion in this book and I am looking forward to the sequel. I just hoped for more out of this one.
Hunt the Stars by Jessie Mihalik
Hunt the Stars was a great addition to Mihalik’s sci-fi romance/adventure repertoire. Mihalik has a very distinct authorial voice and character beats she likes to hit and I think you can see the Ilona Andrews inspiration shine through in her books. In Hunt the Stars the Ilona Andrews inspiration I saw was Connor Rogan vibes in Torran Fletcher, the love interest, and believe me, that is not a complaint.
So, what is Hunt the Stars about? It follows a team of bounty hunters, captained by Octavia (Tavia) Zarola, a retired war hero with a massive amount of war trauma and resentment at the decision makers in the FHP to go with that, who are hired by the “enemy” to locate a missing item. The enemy happens to be a group of Valoffs led by General Torran Fletcher. There are a lot of adventures and discoveries learned along the way and the book was full of delightful found family vibes and a simmering tension between Tavia and Torran. Plus, the most excellent animal companion.
Even as I type this review, I’m finding myself wondering why this book is so clearly not a five star in my head because all of the things I’m talking about are things I enjoy and so I’m left with this: There is something about the pacing in this book, paired with the fact that I don’t think I should have read this book via audio due to not vibing with the narrator, that felt just slightly off to me. That said, I think it’s a great book and I’ll hopefully re-read it before the sequel drops in July (which, btw, I am SO excited for because this book has excellent sequel bait!) and then maybe can resolve my feelings on this book in a more coherent manner. But for now, I’ll just say, if you’ve liked Mihalik in the past OR if you want a solid space/romance adventure, this book is a safe bet for you to enjoy!
And there you have it! Have you already read these two? If so, what did you think? If not, are you planning to? Let me know!