I had so much fun frantically trying to complete this Bingo board two entire times because I’m ridiculous and I really love this board. I think my sister is so good at illustrating these and I’m really pleased with the prompts that Aarya, Dani, and I came up with. But mostly, I’m just so excited to actually be able to shout about all of these books from the rooftops if I want to because the Harper Collins strike is, at long last, complete. I’m still a little cranky that HC didn’t immediately give them all a minimum salary of $50,000, but I have faith that eventually we’ll all manage to wear down these people in charge until they do the right thing. Right? Well. Optimism is good at any rate. Anyway, let’s talk about what I read for #SnowInLoveBingo.
Both Lies and The Fine Print are fun reads, though Lies is a much quicker one for me. The Fine Print kicks off a trilogy and it was a solid intro to the series (I read it second, but that’s neither here nor there), but it wasn’t my absolute favorite. Lies was really fun and I would like many more spy romances because what a joy that was! It was a spy novel in the vein of Finlay almost, in that it was still a lot of fun. More high stakes and serious than Finlay, but not like a full blown spy novel. Does that make sense? Probably not. But it’s the best I can do.
The two Kates are basically my two favorites for Quiet Intimacy. There’s just something about a man (or woman) who knows their partner and does his best to care for her in whatever way he is allowed. Far Cry has the stunning Brooke (BAM) and JJ and y’all, the way JJ cares about Brooke… My heart. It’s everything. I love that. And then in Georgie, All Along, I feel like both Levi and Georgie really get one another and they make sure to take care of one another. It’s really lovely. Highly recommend both of these books.
I took this prompt in two opposite directions. For the first time through I read a book and did self-care, which was Lore Olympus: Vol. 3 by Rachel Smythe. I adore the art in these graphic novels and so I really enjoyed my time with that volume. I’m excited to get deeper and deeper into this series. I’m a little concerned regarding both shelf space and my bank account in terms of how many volumes I can expect. Anyway… The second time through, I decided to use Before I Let Go by Kennedy Ryan because the therapy talk in this book was impeccable and excellent and felt like the true meaning of self-care to me. The kind of self-care that invests in yourself long term and isn’t just my cheap mood boost of eating a piece of chocolate and lighting a candle. And both books were absolutely fantastic so I highly recommend them both!
I’ve finished Wherever is Your Heart and the Moonies trilogy of novellas is complete! Unfortunately, Wherever is Your Heart just didn’t quite work for me, but I’m confident it will work for most people. It’s a sweet wlw novella with two older women and it’s great. Just… not great for me. Then we have Again by J.L. Seegers, which is absolute perfection. Stunning. Loved it so, so much. It’s a divorced couple finding their way back to one another at their siblings wedding and it was so good. The steam in here was top notch! The romance? Truly excellent. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
A Valentine for Christmas by Reese Ryan is not a Christmas romance, okay? So you can read it whenever you want. Truly. I think there is maybe one mention of Christmas. Mostly this book is about our FMC finding her way back to herself and remembering that she doesn’t have to be walls up and guarded all the time. That there’s room for ambition and softness. Unfortunately, it’s paired with a trope I hate so overall it got a 3 star from me.
Then we have another CCJ novelette, Thank Me Later, which was so good. I really love CCJ’s writing. I think she does an incredible job bringing characters to life quickly, which made her book the most successful of this trilogy for me. I definitely recommend y’all try these around next Thanksgiving (the one in Canada or in the US, I don’t think it matters all that much).
Flawless by Elsie Silver is so close to being a perfect book that when I think about it, I still get all mushy inside because of how much I love Summer and Rhett. The third act conflict was really annoying, but other than that, perfection!! And I just adored watching both Summer and Rhett really come into their own. They’re so perfect together. I just love them so much.
And then Don’t You Forget About Me by Naima Simone was definitely a case of breaking free being absolutely necessary and also entirely too late because how in the world did our FMC handle her dad for as long as she did? I wanted to scream. But the heat level in this book was great, so I highly recommend it for that alone.
Naughty or Nice
Every now and again, I find myself just wanting a quick and steamy read and Katee Robert is pretty excellent at delivering that for me. Ultimately, Seducing My Guardian didn’t have a lot that I was interested in about it, so I can say that it is well written, but I don’t think these books will be outstanding for you if the tropes/kinks explored aren’t for you. This one was sort of role-play type inspired paired with the whole age gap, person in a role of authority over you/your money type situation and… Well. Not totally for me.
But Twisted Lies by Ana Huang was a complete win for me! I’m pretty shocked about it, tbh, but it’s one of those reads that I picked up at the perfect time, solidifying for me why I’m a mood reader. Christian is an absolute unhinged, alpha to the extreme MMC who I would absolutely scream at any friend to stay/run far away from. And yet, in this book? I was right there along for the ride, squealing with joy and writing in the margins of the book about how he’s nuts, but I’m obsessed. So, do I recommend this to you? No. But if you’re in the mood for an obnoxiously rich man sort of coming undone for a woman book? Yeah, I would say you could pick this book up.
To the surprise of no one, The Chocolate Kiss was just as magical as it was the first time I read it. Laura Florand is truly such a talented author and it’s a crying shame that she isn’t really publishing anymore. It’s because of that I’ve been dragging my feet on finishing out the rest of her backlist, but I think I need to change that. She has so many brilliant books and I want some more of them to enter my life. Anyway, The Chocolate Kiss gives us the gift of Magalie and Philippe and made me want to go to Paris with a desperation that I’m not sure is entirely healthy. Highly, highly recommend.
I’ve finally published my review of Take the Lead, but the short version is that I really enjoyed it, but am mostly just desperate for St. Martin’s to give me Dance with Me because I am desperate to be reunited with Natasha and Dimitri.
Both Flagrant and Relentless are about men who have gotten around quite a bit thanks to their career, but there are not many other similarities. I’m kind of proud that I managed to read two entirely different sports, which is a little silly, but whatever. Flagrant was… honestly, a book I’m still trying to process. There’s cheating and it is obviously dealt with, but it ultimately just left me feeling a little uncomfy and I never managed to come around to the book or the romance because of it. But Relentless was really solid, other than the third act situation. I’m really getting aggravated with third acts ruining books for me. And this one wasn’t even a third act break up. But I hated the external conflict almost more than I would have hated an internal one. Maybe more, tbh. Anyway, I wouldn’t discourage anyone from reading either of them, but they wouldn’t be the sports romances I would shout at you to pick up either.
Eight Nights of Flirting by Hannah Reynolds is about to solidify Reynolds as an autobuy for me. We’re two fantastic books in that have me so invested in whatever Reynolds writes next. I just want more. I love the way she writes family dynamics, romance, coming of age, and, most intriguingly, the way she weaves in history and the past into her books. I’m a huge fan of hers already and am definitely looking forward to more!
Lunar Love by Lauren Kung Jessen is a fun matchmaking inspired book that deals a lot with challenging the beliefs you hold so dear and why. It has heavier topics in it, like grief, and there are things I wish it had explored more, like this friendship that comes up but doesn’t really get the page time I would have liked. But all in all, I’m really glad I read this one and I’m looking forward to more from Jessen in the future.
Christmas in Quincy by Devney Perry was a very fun novella prequel situation to The Edens series and I had a great time with it. I will always enjoy a bodyguard falling for the person he’s supposed to be protecting even though this one has something that usually drives me actually up the wall (aka a man being mean because he can’t handle being attracted to a woman). And yet, this novella worked for me. Is it perfect? No. But would I read it again? Absolutely yes.
Thank You, Next by Nicole Falls meanwhile is a very short novelette that I enjoyed quite a bit, but I really, really wanted more from it. I know that when you’re reading a short story, it’s almost a cop out to say that you wanted more from it, but I’m being serious. This short story felt almost incomplete. Like the end just happened and you’re left going, “Um…” So I wish this had been fleshed out a little more. I think just like ten more pages would have given Falls the room she needed to make me feel like the story was more complete. That said, I would still recommend it, for sure! I’m sure other people don’t mind a more open ending and this is a romance novelette so you can fill in your own blanks about the ending anyway.
Pride and Passion by Carla Buchanan wasn’t my favorite in the Decades series that I’ve read so far, but I did mostly enjoy it. That said, it’s very odd in that it plays around with what you expect a lot and not always in a way I loved. Ostensibly this book is about a widow who finds love again with a man who served with her husband. In fact, it’s a lot about this woman learning to live her own life again while falling in love with a man who really needs to deal with his past. It felt pretty unique and I think a lot of people are looking for something that feels fresh, so I would recommend it for anyone in that camp.
Turning then to Alliance with His Stolen Heiress by Lydia San Andres… This book was wild. The twists and turns it took had me screaming and I think it’s a must read. Especially if you’re sometimes bored with historical romances because sometimes they feel too similar? This one is very, very unique.
Two short stories filled my free space/Happy Holidays square this go around and no regrets. I really enjoyed both My Present This Year by Sierra Simone and No, Thank You by Alexandra Warren, but neither of them are going to really stick with me forever. (Well, beyond the fact that I’ve officially read and enjoyed a short story inspired by the weirdly incestuous seeming Folgers coffee ad and that makes me feel a type of way…)
Divorced Main Character
I actually read several divorced main characters during the last three months, but the two I slotted into this prompt are Believe in Me by Alexandria House and Jasper Vale by Devney Perry. I really liked Believe in Me. It was pretty emotional, but still had the thread of humor that I really enjoy in House’s work. I thought she struck the balance really well. Also, I thought it was fun to read about a really successful writer, who got his start in a less than legal way. That was fascinating because I don’t feel like we often get to see that? Or at least, when we are seeing a character who started out on the wrong side of the law, they are usually still in that life. Maybe I’m wrong, but it felt new to me. Then we have Jasper Vale, which… was not my favorite in the series because I wanted more of the Edens. But at the same time, I really like Eloise. I just struggled with the entire plot of this book not really being what I wanted. That’s alright though. It was still a solid read and I’m obviously stoked to get the next book in this series already.
Counterfeit Courtship was a pretty excellent series conclusion to this series from Synithia Williams, but not my favorite installment in the trilogy, honestly. That said, very good and I highly recommend the entire series. For the second time through, I read The Secret Life of Violet Grant, which was a really interesting historical fiction novel. I enjoyed it, but I still want an actual Kearsley readalike. Someone give me a book that will make me feel the way that The Winter Sea did, please!
I’ll be honest, I love Devney Perry’s writing, but I already couldn’t tell you which book Tattered is. Ooh, okay, I went and reminded myself and this book is an accidental pregnancy/secret baby type situation where Dad doesn’t know he’s a Dad because Mom has no way to contact him. Then he finds out and does all the right things. So that’s cool. Unfortunately… While I enjoyed this in the moment, it doesn’t stand out to me as a book I really loved.
Heartless by Elsie Silver is officially one of my favorite books of the year. Is it early to make that declaration? Oh, absolutely, but it doesn’t make it any less true. It is so freaking good, I just want to scream about it to everyone. And it’s not really my usual cup of tea. A nanny and a grumpy single dad? I mean… I’ll give it a shot, was basically my attitude going in and then I was like, HELLO, I’M IN LOVE. Willa and Cade have my whole heart and then there’s Luke, who I adore and want to have as my own kid. Absolutely brilliant.
If I made a worst/least favorite books of the year list, Stroke of Midnight would be on it and that’s all I’m gong to say about that. In contrast, Midnight Duet by Jen Comfort was really great, but also… a ride. I really, truly did not know if I was going to like it at first. But by the end of it, I had a really great time and you can read my full review here.
I have ARC Reviews up of both Kiss Her Once for Me and Wearing His Ring till Christmas. But for the tl;dr version of both, Kiss Her Once for Me was really fun in the moment, but every time I stop and think about it, I get mad all over again at the end. I hated the entire third act. HATED it. Wearing His Ring till Christmas on the other hand was absolutely excellent and I think of it more and more fondly as time passes. I really enjoyed that one and want a copy for my keeper shelf, tbh.
CCJ was an obvious choice for a Community pick because it’s one of my favorite things about her writing. A Crazy Little Thing Called Love was not an exception because I absolutely love the way she brings all these small businesses to life and makes me deeply invested in each character’s business even while also falling in love with them as people and with their relationships. I didn’t love everything about this one (our main dude’s ex/baby mama was on my every last nerve), but overall, I had a great time with it and I’m excited to move on to book two!
The second time through, I wound up using Chick Magnet (my review is linked) by Emma Barry to fulfill this prompt because it was absolutely incredible to see how the community was so deeply invested in Will’s life and his business. I really loved seeing him be forced to reckon with the fact that he wasn’t alone and no one was angry or disappointed in him for his perceived failure. Also, the way Will tried everything he could to give Nic her own community with the chicken group. I loved that. It was just really, really lovely. I adore Barry’s writing and I’m looking forward to the next book by her that is already on my Kindle (Funny Guy).
Another book I can already tell is going to be on my Favorites of the Year list is A Proposal They Can’t Refuse by Natalie Caña, which I absolutely adored. The grandpas in this book are so great and the childhood friends to enemies to lovers dynamic here between our love interests was everything. I cannot wait for more from Caña!
And then Their Icelandic Marriage Reunion (my review is linked) was another excellent category and another Hollywood romance that had such a unique spin. I really enjoyed this one and would definitely recommend!
Trans/Non-Binary Main Character
For the most part, I absolutely adored For the Love of April French. Well, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I appreciated the way that For the Love of April French absolutely ripped my heart out and barely put it back together. So, you know, highly recommend.
Okay, very technically, I am not yet finished with Names for the Dawn by C.L. Beaumont. It’s a beautifully written book that begs to be read slowly. Or maybe that’s just how my brain interprets the language at use. It’s set in the 90s and in Alaska, which is really enjoyable. What is less enjoyable is how much stress over hiding who he is Will is. But that’s understandable, both given the time, but also people today are still hateful AF! So, that’s lovely. I just want to live in a world where we’re like… you know. Nice and accepting and loving and kind and focused on respect and equality when it comes to people who don’t fit society’s standards of acceptability. But in the meantime, this is a great book if you like nature and trans people finding love.
Take a Chance
I gave into the hype with Terms and Conditions by Lauren Asher and I am so thrilled that I did because I absolutely loved it. It was so good!!! I don’t think that book will be for everyone (like if you hate billionaires, for example), but it was definitely for me. Should it have been? Probs not. But that’s not what reading is about.
Then I read The Reunion by Kayla Olson, which was another book that had a really fun spin on the celebrity romance situation that I’ve been mulling over for months. I have a lot of thoughts, but I don’t have any of them organized. I did mostly enjoy this one though. I just don’t think I would technically categorize it as romance. But that’s just me.
Tattered Stars was a book I was seeing a lot on booktube and Audible so I decided to give it a shot. I don’t regret having done so, but at the same time, it wasn’t my favorite. That said, I enjoyed it enough that I want to continue in the series. Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute on the other hand, I really loved. It was such a good transition for Talia Hibbert from adult to YA and I was so pleased to still enjoy it. I’m aggravated with myself that I still haven’t read the books that I actually intended to read.
I read Big Boy by Ruthie Knox for this prompt the first time through and it was really good, but also… it was really short. Ultimately it just didn’t quite have enough for me to love as much as I feel like so many of my bookish friends have. Lease on Love by Falon Ballard was really wonderful and I enjoyed it immensely. That said, I hated the third act conflict. Sometimes I want to scream at authors that the melodramatic third act break up cannot possibly be required to maintain tension, but who am I to criticize?
Snow on the Cover
I kind of love that both of my snow on the cover books are mm romances and I overall enjoyed them both. I was pleasantly surprised I enjoyed The Lights on Knockbridge Lane because, let me tell you, I was not sure how I would do listening to a book with some pets that are terrifying to me. But I loved the emotional aspect here and I think it was really fantastic. And then Our Favorite Songs was very emotional for a novella. I was amazed by how much Anita Kelly put in this novella and I mostly enjoyed it. It brought out a shocking amount of emotion in me and I’m still uncertain if that’s good or bad. But overall, I definitely recommend both reads!
I found a lot of new favorites throughout the course of this Bingo challenge, which makes me so excited to start #SpringIntoLoveBingo! I hope you had a great time if you participated too, and I would love to hear about what books you enjoyed and would recommend! My favorite prompt was actually probably a tie between Quiet Intimacy and Nature, so I’m especially curious what you read for those prompts, if you did.
I hope you’re having a great day (or whatever time of day you’re reading this) and that you feel loved and appreciated this week.