ARC Reviews: Aphrodite and the Duke, Carrie Soto is Back, and The Holiday Trap

The three books I’m here to discuss today have very different vibes, but they are also the three most recent ARCs I’ve finished so I wanted to get reviews posted for you sooner than later. All three are books you can already get your hands on if they sound appealing to you! First up, we have Aphrodite and the Duke by J.J. McAvoy, a historical romance marketed for fans of Bridgerton. Then we have Carrie Soto is Back, the latest from Taylor Jenkins Reid, which I loved. And then finally we have The Holiday Trap by Roan Parrish. I received e-ARCs of all three books from Netgalley as well as an audio ARC of The Holiday Trap from Netgalley as well. I wound up listening to Aphrodite and the Duke and Carrie Soto is Back via audiobooks I purchased for myself. Now, let’s go ahead and hop into the reviews, shall we?

Aphrodite and the Duke by J. J. McAvoy

Overall, I really enjoyed Aphrodite and the Duke, with a few caveats. But first let me tell you, briefly, what this book is about. At the beginning, you learn that Aphrodite is on her way back to London for the first time in several seasons after having her heart broken by her childhood friend who had said they would get married and then during the first week after her debut, he announced his marriage to someone else. When Aphrodite gets to London, her mom is like, “Yeah, you’re getting married this season, congrats! Pick your suitor.” And as you start to see Aphrodite interact with the Duke (childhood friend), the whole time you’re going, “okay, so… what happened?” because it is very clear he is still into her. Eventually you get an answer to that and then ultimately, we spend the second half of the book with the two of them married. 

In news that is maybe not altogether surprising given my love of marriage in trouble books, I loved watching Aphrodite and the Duke figure out how to be married to one another. Like, loved it. However, there is this whole suspense aspect to the plot that I just… hated, honestly. It’s not that it is poorly done, it’s just that I am exhausted at the moment with violence against women. I definitely think that’s a me issue (I mean, IRL, I trust we’re all tired of violence against women and probably violence in general, I just mean that in writing, I trust others still have the ability to tolerate that as a plot point). And ultimately, the resolution of this storyline left me… cold, I guess. 

But all in all, I am very much looking forward to more from McAvoy in the future and I hope and trust that her writing may evolve a little to relax into a more modern writing style even while writing historical romance. Maybe. Hopefully. Otherwise, let me just say, the audiobook was the way to go for me. It made it a lot easier to deal with a writing style that feels a bit older and more formal. 

Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid

On the one hand, I’m not at all surprised that I loved Carrie Soto is Back, because I really adore the way Taylor Jenkins Reid creates characters. On the other hand, I was really uncertain how I would feel about a book so focused around tennis because, while it’s a sport that I played in high school, it’s not a sport I really watch. But the audiobook was so immersive that I was literally cheering in the car at various points while reading this book. The trouble is, I really don’t know how to articulate what makes her writing work for me in a way that I think will help other people be able to determine the same thing. So let me tell you some things about this book that are just true and you can decide if you think it could be for you: 

– Carrie Soto is an Argentinian American woman raised and coached by her Argentinian tennis star father. Keep in mind that Carrie Soto is written by a white woman. 
– There is Spanish in the audiobook that isn’t translated for you into English. 
– There are sports cast and news reports that are very well-produced in the audiobook. 
– Carrie is a controversial figure. She feels very strongly that she is the greatest tennis player of all time and that she has earned that title through a lot of hard work. She’s not the most social or friendly and therefore isn’t always well liked. 
– Nicki Chan is a British, who I am fairly certain is also Black and Chinese? Either way, she and Carrie have a fascinating relationship throughout this. 
– The family dynamics between Carrie and Javier are intense and evolve over time and feel so… emotional. 
– Carrie winds up hitting with a man from her past, Bowe Huntley, and the way Bowe’s character evolves, even just from Carrie’s perspective, was so engaging. I loved every second of page time he got. 
– There is a lot of tennis. And not just tennis, but tennis strategy. 

I guess, I would say that if you like sports movies, you should definitely give this one a shot. If you’re a competitive person, this book could be for you. If you have just loved Taylor Jenkins Reid, definitely try this one. My overall ranking of her books puts this one just behind Daisy Jones, which is my favorite book of all time. And, of course, if you like tennis, I think you could really enjoy this one. If there are parallels to other tennis players throughout, I really don’t recognize them, though I could be missing something, obviously. But regardless, as far as my enjoyment goes, I loved this one!

Content Note: parental death, hospital, heart condition

The Holiday Trap by Roan Parrish

The Holiday is probably one of my favorite Christmas movies so when I saw this book, written by Roan Parrish, I was already hooked. Ultimately, The Holiday Trap mostly delivers on all of the vibes I was looking for based on the blurb alone, but there are definitely certain things that leave me with small quibbles in each storyline. 

Essentially, Truman and Greta are both friends with Ramona and when their lives present each of them with a moment where they just want to get the heck out of dodge, Ramona provides them with the connection they need to swap homes for a month. Truman’s home in New Orleans comes with his dog Horse and Greta’s cottage in Maine comes with a large number of house plants, including the carniverous variety. I loved Horse so much during this book, for the record. He is such a good boy and I adore him. The other thing that I really appreciated is how this book treated the charm of Owl Island and the charm of New Orleans as both being really valid things to want. This book, to me, really emphasized how important it can be to find a place that feels like home. 

Anyway, once the switch happens, both Greta and Truman encounter their respective love interests very quickly. Greta and Carys have an immediate connection that just keeps building and building. It’s cute and their dynamic winds up being really interesting. Greta is dealing with the fact that her family is a bit… overly involved in each other’s lives and somehow make harmful decisions. Greta feels a lot of guilt for wanting to pursue a life more suited for her than what she can find on Owl Island. Carys has been through a lot of therapy because her mother is a narcissist. The two of them discover that their childhood wounds present in interesting ways and they have very well-adjusted conversations about them and it was neat to see on page, but also sometimes managed to pull me entirely out of the story for one reason or another. Meanwhile, Truman winds up connecting with Greta’s friend, Ash, because he’s convinced he killed a plant. Truman is a precious bean and Ash is a wonderful human who I genuinely wanted to just wrap up in a warm hug and tell him everything was going to be okay. I really loved the two of them together. Their relationship is more of a slow build and I really loved all of the emotional issues they encountered and how they were able to overcome them and work things out. 

I was able to listen to the narration of The Holiday Trap and overall I really enjoyed it. The part that I didn’t understand is the addition of the third narrator who voices Ramona’s messages to Truman and Greta. I… never really understood Ramona’s place in this book, honestly, beyond being the catalyst for what happened. I felt like if she was going to have these specifically voiced narrations her part either needed to be larger (which I wouldn’t have wanted) or removed entirely. And in a physical book, that’s easy enough, because you could just skip them, whereas that’s a little more challenging in an audiobook. But that’s a very small quibble. 

Overall, I enjoyed this one and would recommend when you’re ready to be in the holiday spirit! I should emphasize that Greta is Jewish and so Hanukkah is represented in this book and the inclusion of Greta’s traditions by Carys and her friends is so heartwarming. I really loved that part. 

Final Wrap Up

And there you have it! My reviews for Aphrodite and the Duke, Carrie Soto is Back, and The Holiday Trap. And really, we have a hit three for three that I would recommend for the right reader! Have you tried any of these? If so, what are your thoughts? If not, are you planning to? Let me know!


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