Am I late getting you ARC reviews of all three of these contemporary romances? Yes, yes, I am. So the good news is that YOU can go and pick up any of these books right now if they interest you! I wound up purchasing my own audiobook copy of Fake It Till You Bake It by Jamie Wesley, despite having the e-ARC from Netgalley. I listened to After Hours on Milagro Street by Angelina M. Lopez via Hoopla, despite having the e-ARC from Netgalley. And finally, I actually did read my e-ARC of Bend Toward the Sun by Jen Devon, but would like to pick up a physical copy ASAP because I already want to re-read it! Anyway, thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for the e-ARCs of each of these books, but let’s get into the actual reviews, shall we?
Fake It Till You Bake It by Jamie Wesley
Sometimes I find it really challenging to review books that I wind up feeling very just okay about and this is honestly one of those times. This book was good, but it had the potential to be great and I think that’s the part that left me off kilter. But for this book to have been great for me, it would have had an entirely different vibe so that’s not really fair for me to say maybe. Essentially, what this boils down to is that Fake It Till You Bake It has a lot going on that, in my opinion, should have led to a book with a more angsty tone.
Essentially, Jada is hated by much of America after rejecting a proposal on national television in a Bachelor inspired reality show and we literally see it affect her in real life. (There are at least two encounters while in public where Jada is confronted about her actions.) Jada also has an extremely strained relationship with her parents and feels like they’ve never once thought she was good enough. And, certainly, it’s totally fine to not really dwell on these things, but it almost feels like the book will but still with this super light tone that just created a lot of dissonance for me. Plus, after being cut off financially (aside from having a nice apartment situation provided for her), Jada gets essentially coerced by her grandma into working with Donovan at the cupcake shop. And maybe it’s because of things going on in my own life, but the stress of financially supporting yourself is intense for me, so I found this whole set up to be anxiety inducing and then it never really goes anywhere. She’s just presumably making enough money to continue living the life that she’s accustomed to? I mean, good for her, but if I went from living off of credit cards my parents paid for to suddenly having to actually think about how much my groceries cost, I would have struggled a bit more.
Also, the fake dating with Donovan plot was definitely fine, but I really didn’t love it. My favorite part of this book was the set up for the secondary characters and I hate when I wind up feeling that way. It’s so aggravating. Let me feel invested in THIS storyline. And there were things I liked! I enjoyed Jada setting up these incredible events for other people and I wish we’d gotten to see more events, honestly. But overall, this book just really wasn’t for me.
After Hours on Milagro Street by Angelina M. Lopez
This book is challenging to review because it took me a while to realize how invested I was in these characters and the plot itself. What I mean by that is that for quite some time, I probably could have sat After Hours on Milagro Street down and walked away without giving it a second thought. Not because it wasn’t good, Lopez is a fantastic writer. But more because the characters and my mood didn’t seem to be compatible. I’ve not really read other reviews, but I have a feeling there are people who may pick this book up and complain that the Alex was unlikeable in some way. Her defense mechanism is essentially to almost aggressively push other people away, for a lack of a better way to describe that. (On my end, that is.) And so, at times, it was frustrating because I wanted the other characters to be able to see past her defenses, but they mostly weren’t. And then suddenly, Alex’s relationship with Jamison was letting us in and he was SLOWLY starting to understand her too. And all of this culminates in the most emotional third act situation that I’ve read in a REALLY long time and I was essentially sobbing. It was a lot and ridiculous. But like, the character work Angelina M. Lopez did??? Astonishing. Amazing.
Oh, I suppose I should let you know like what this book is about. Essentially, things blow up for Alex in Chicago, so she comes back home because she and her sisters have concocted this plan to run Loretta’s (her grandmother’s bar) because her grandma has suffered from a fall and blah blah blah. Anyway, there is a ton of family drama and a ghost type situation and also this skeezy man is trying to buy the bar and then Jamison has an offer in too so that he can turn it into a museum. This book has so much happening, but it also never loses focus. I really, really enjoyed this one.
Bend Toward the Sun by Jen Devon
I’m honestly so stunned this book is a debut because Jen Devon really grasps how to connect you to the emotions of her characters in a way that was so skillful. I am just a little in awe of the writing in this book. It’s full of messy characters doing the best they can to put the pieces together/back together of their lives and everything about that spoke to me in an intense way.
I’m not sure how to sell this book better than Aarya and Nick who are the ones that sold me on it so effectively. But if you love characters who really do not have it all figured out and don’t mind a really slow, aching build up, this book could very well be for you. I think the most difficult thing for some people will be how Devon uses time in this book. There are lots of months that elapse without much being said about it. But that really worked for me because I felt like it made the romance more believable. And even the rough moment in this book made sense with the characters even if I wanted to shake them both and be like FIX IT, FOR HEAVENS SAKE.
I don’t want to say much about the plot of this book, because this book isn’t really about the plot. It’s about the characters. And honestly, even beyond Rowan and Harry, the entire cast of characters in this book is truly, genuinely so delightful and engaging. I cannot wait to read the future books in this series. I need them. Also, I’ve already decided for St. Martin’s and Jen Devon, whether they intended this book to be a series or not, that it has to be. So… don’t let me down, y’all?
Anyway, probably this was the least helpful review, so a quick tl;dr, this was great. You should probably try it.
And there you have it! Three reviews for three recent reads of mine, all of which are available for you to pick up whenever you so choose! Have you read any of them yet? Do you want to? Let me know!