Review: First Comes Like

First Comes Like by Alisha Rai
Publication: Avon
Publication Date: 2/16/2021

Disclaimer: I received an advanced digital copy of this book from Avon Books in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: Beauty expert and influencer Jia Ahmed has her eye on the prize: conquering the internet today, the entire makeup industry tomorrow, and finally, finally proving herself to her big opinionated family. She has little time for love, and even less time for the men in her private messages—until the day a certain international superstar slides into her DMs, and she falls hard and fast.

There’s just one wrinkle: he has no idea who she is.

The son of a powerful Bollywood family, soap opera star Dev Dixit is used to drama, but a strange woman who accuses him of wooing her online, well, that’s a new one. As much as he’d like to focus on his Hollywood fresh start, he can’t get Jia out of his head. Especially once he starts to suspect who might have used his famous name to catfish her…

When paparazzi blast their private business into the public eye, Dev is happy to engage in some friendly fake dating to calm the gossips and to dazzle her family. But as the whole world swoons over their relationship, Jia can’t help but wonder: Can an online romance-turned-offline-fauxmance ever become love in real life?

Review: First Comes Like is the third book in the Modern Love series and can be read as a stand alone. I was so excited to finally see that Jia was going to have her love story since she was first introduced in book 2 of the Forbidden Heart series, Wrong to Love You, as Sadia’s sister and then she made appearances in the Modern Love series, The Right Swipe and Girl Gone Viral, as Rhiannon and Katrina’s friend and roommate. This book is more of a slow burn and is definitely a way more tame than any of Alisha Rai’s previous books. The author definitely tackles sensitive issues like traditional beliefs, conservatism, religion, and family pressure in a tactful way while implementing the fake relationship and catfish tropes. I really liked the fake relationship trope in this story which worked out well, but I just couldn’t get into the catfishing trope (FYI I have not found any romance book that successfully does the catfish trope). Though both of the main characters are sweet and they’re a great fit for each other, the pace of their relationship was a bit off and felt that the main characters overall were a bit flat. I love that we see reoccurring characters from previous books like Rhiannon, Katrina, Sadia, and Lakshmi. We are also introduced to some lovable new side characters like Adil Uncle and Luna. Even though I didn’t enjoy this as much as I enjoyed Girl Gone Viral, I absolutely love the author’s writing style. I’m really hoping we’ll get to read Lakshmi’s story next!

Review: The Wife Upstairs

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
Publication: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: 1/5/2021

Disclaimer: I received a finished copy of this book from Booksparks and St. Martin’s Press and an advanced listening copy from LibroFM and Macmillan Audio in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates––a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.

But her luck changes when she meets Eddie Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie––not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.

Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past––or his––catches up to her?

With delicious suspense, incisive wit, and a fresh, feminist sensibility, The Wife Upstairs flips the script on a timeless tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won’t stay buried. In this vivid reimagining of one of literature’s most twisted love triangles, which Mrs. Rochester will get her happy ending?

Review: The Wife Upstairs is the first book I’ve read from Rachel Hawkins. This book initially caught my interest as it was December BOTM pick. This domestic thriller is supposed to be a twist to the gothic classic, Jane Eyre, and dives into forbidden romance, twisted love triangles, social elite status, and troubled pasts. I enjoyed listening to this one! The three perspectives were very distinct. I really liked that Jane’s personality and that she was observant. Though I felt that some of the twists were predictable, I did enjoy the solid storyline. The author’s writing style made this quick and intriguing read. In terms of the audio, I really liked the narrator for Jane. She really brought out Jane’s character by reading with so much emotion. Overall, I’d recommend this thriller if you’re looking for a book to get you out of your reading slump or if you enjoy domestic thrillers as much as I do.

Review: Accidentally Engaged

Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron
Publication: Read Forever
Publication Date: 3/2/2021

Disclaimer: I received a free advanced copy of this book from Forever in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: Reena Manji doesn’t love her career, her single status, and most of all, her family inserting themselves into every detail of her life. But when caring for her precious sourdough starters, Reena can drown it all out. At least until her father moves his newest employee across the hall–with hopes that Reena will marry him.

But Nadim’s not like the other Muslim bachelors-du-jour that her parents have dug up. If the Captain America body and the British accent weren’t enough, the man appears to love eating her bread creations as much as she loves making them. She sure as hell would never marry a man who works for her father, but friendship with a neighbor is okay, right? And when Reena’s career takes a nosedive, Nadim happily agrees to fake an engagement so they can enter a couples video cooking contest to win the artisan bread course of her dreams.

As cooking at home together brings them closer, things turn physical, but Reena isn’t worried. She knows Nadim is keeping secrets, but it’s fine— secrets are always on the menu where her family is concerned. And her heart is protected… she’s not marrying the man. But even secrets kept for self preservation have a way of getting out, especially when meddling parents and gossiping families are involved.

Review: I loved The Chai Factor so I was super excited to hear that Amira’s best friend, Reena, would be the focus in Accidentally Engaged. This contemporary romance is explores self-discovery, family pressure, culinary delights, and cultural expectations/values. This was such a cute heartfelt romance read! All the characters felt so real and were entertaining to read. The chemistry between Reena and Nadi forming a friendship into a fake engagement was organic. I really liked the way the author portrayed Reena and Nadim’s overbearing but loving parents and shed light into Indian culture. The secondary characters like Saira, Marley, and Shayne were sweet and encouraging. I also loved that we get cameo appearances from Amira and Duncan from The Chai Factor. If you loved The Chai Factor or love contemporary romance books in general, I highly recommend picking this one up. FYI Accidentally Engaged can be read as a stand alone, but I think you would enjoy it more if you’ve already read The Chai Factor.

Rating: 4/5

Review: Crazy Stupid Bromance

Crazy Stupid Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams
Publication: Berkley Publishing Group
Publication Date: 10/27/2020

Disclaimer: I received an advanced digital copy of this book from Berkley Publishing Group in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: Alexis Carlisle and her cat café, ToeBeans, have shot to fame after she came forward as a victim of a celebrity chef’s sexual harassment. When a new customer approaches to confide in her, the last thing Alexis expects is for the woman to claim they’re sisters. Unsure what to do, Alexis turns to the only man she trusts—her best friend, Noah Logan.

Computer genius Noah left his rebellious teenage hacker past behind to become a computer security expert. Now he only uses his old skills for the right cause. But Noah’s got a secret: He’s madly in love with Alexis. When she asks for his help, he wonders if the timing will ever be right to confess his crush. 

Noah’s pals in The Bromance Book Club are more than willing to share their beloved “manuals” to help him go from bud to boyfriend. But he must decide if telling the truth is worth risking the best friendship he’s ever had.

A hacktivist and a cat café owner decode the friend zone in this romantic comedy from the author of Undercover Bromance. 

Review: Crazy Stupid Bromance is the third book in the Bromance Book Club series and features Alexa and Noah. Although this can be read as a stand alone, I’d recommend reading the previous books as you wouldn’t catch some of the references to the other books’ characters. This wasn’t my favorite of the three, but it wasn’t my least favorite either. I like that we get to see the characters in previous books progress in their lives in this book. My favorite aspect of this series is that we get to see the bromance book club come together and support each other. Though there are parts in this book that are highly unrealistic, it was still a fun and light read even though there were undertones of serious subjects. If you loved the previous books or like friends turned lovers trope, then this book is definitely for you. I’m excited to hear that there will be a fourth book coming out soon featuring the Russian and his wife!

Rating: 3/5

Review: Invisible Girl

Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell
Publication: Atria Books
Publication Date: 10/13/2020

Disclaimer: I received an advanced digital copy of this book from Atria Books in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: Owen Pick’s life is falling apart.

In his thirties, a virgin, and living in his aunt’s spare bedroom, he has just been suspended from his job as a geography teacher after accusations of sexual misconduct, which he strongly denies. Searching for professional advice online, he is inadvertently sucked into the dark world of incel—involuntary celibate—forums, where he meets the charismatic, mysterious, and sinister Bryn.

Across the street from Owen lives the Fours family, headed by mom Cate, a physiotherapist, and dad Roan, a child psychologist. But the Fours family have a bad feeling about their neighbor Owen. He’s a bit creepy and their teenaged daughter swears he followed her home from the train station one night.

Meanwhile, young Saffyre Maddox spent three years as a patient of Roan Fours. Feeling abandoned when their therapy ends, she searches for other ways to maintain her connection with him, following him in the shadows and learning more than she wanted to know about Roan and his family. Then, on Valentine’s night, Saffyre Maddox disappears—and the last person to see her alive is Owen Pick.

With evocative, vivid, and unputdownable prose and plenty of disturbing twists and turns, Jewell’s latest thriller is another “haunting, atmospheric, stay-up-way-too-late read” (Megan Miranda, New York Times bestselling author).

Review: Since I absolutely loved The Family Upstairs, I was really excited to read Lisa Jewell’s upcoming novel, Invisible Girl. I’ve noticed that Lisa Jewell’s novels are either a hit or miss for me. I had mixed feelings about Invisible Girl. The writing style is fast-paced and easy to get into which made me finish the book in a day! The author does an excellent job in creating these deeply complex characters and for discussing the tough subjects of rape and sexual assault. In this book, she had three POVs and I loved how distinct the voices were for each POV. When it came towards the end of the book, I was expecting there to be more of a twist or surprise but that seemed to never happen. Overall, I’d recommend this book if you’re a Lisa Jewell fan.

Rating: 4/5

Review: In a Holidaze

In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren
Publication: Gallery Books
Publication Date: 10/6/2020

Disclaimer: I received an advanced digital copy of this book from Gallery Books in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but not for Maelyn Jones. She’s living with her parents, hates her going-nowhere job, and has just made a romantic error of epic proportions.

But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world—the snowy Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born, along with two other beloved families. Mentally melting down as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple plea to the universe: Please. Show me what will make me happy.

The next thing she knows, tires screech and metal collides, everything goes black. But when Mae gasps awake…she’s on an airplane bound for Utah, where she begins the same holiday all over again. With one hilarious disaster after another sending her back to the plane, Mae must figure out how to break free of the strange time loop—and finally get her true love under the mistletoe.

Jam-packed with yuletide cheer, an unforgettable cast of characters, and Christina Lauren’s trademark “downright hilarious” (Helen Hoang, author of The Bride Test) hijinks, this swoon-worthy romantic read will make you believe in the power of wishes and the magic of the holidays.

Review: Christina Lauren is my favorite set of duo authors. I loved this holiday themed, childhood friends to lovers romance read. All the characters were delightful and loved that this book promoted self growth. I felt like I was watching a Hallmark Christmas movie while I was reading this book. There are a couple of sappy/cheesy moments, but that was to be expected. I found myself laughing out loud a couple of times. Overall, I highly recommend checking this one out if you love Christmas romance novels!

Rating: 4/5

Review: Don’t Look For Me

Don’t Look For Me by Wendy Walker
Publication: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: 9/15/2020

Disclaimer: I received a free advanced copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: One night, Molly Clarke walked away from her life.
She doesn’t want to be found.
Or at least, that’s the story.
The car abandoned miles from home.
The note found at a nearby hotel.
The shattered family that couldn’t be put back together.
They called it a “walk away.”
It happens all the time.
Women disappear, desperate to leave their lives behind and start over.
But is that what really happened to Molly Clarke?

Review: Don’t Look For Me is the third book I’ve read from Wendy Walker. I was immersed in the story from page one and couldn’t put this one down. One aspect I really loved about the storyline was that this was character driven and how deeply complex some of the characters were. The story is told in two perspectives: Molly and Nicole (Molly’s daughter). I was really fascinated with Molly’s perspective, but I wasn’t as interested in Nicole’s. As the story progressed, I had an inkling on who the culprit was, but I still enjoyed reading the twists and turns. If you’re looking for a fast-paced thriller, I recommend picking this one up.

Rating: 4/5

Review: Layla

Layla by Colleen Hoover
Publication: Montlake 
Publication Date: 12/8/2020

Disclaimer: I received an advanced digital copy of this book from Montlake in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: When Leeds meets Layla, he’s convinced he’ll spend the rest of his life with her—until an unexpected attack leaves Layla fighting for her life. After weeks in the hospital, Layla recovers physically, but the emotional and mental scarring has altered the woman Leeds fell in love with. In order to put their relationship back on track, Leeds whisks Layla away to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. Once they arrive, Layla’s behavior takes a bizarre turn. And that’s just one of many inexplicable occurrences.

Feeling distant from Layla, Leeds soon finds solace in Willow—another guest of the B&B with whom he forms a connection through their shared concerns. As his curiosity for Willow grows, his decision to help her find answers puts him in direct conflict with Layla’s well-being. Leeds soon realizes he has to make a choice because he can’t help both of them. But if he makes the wrong choice, it could be detrimental for all of them. 

Review: Colleen Hoover is one of my favorite romance authors! I was super excited to hear that she was stepping out of her comfort zone to write a paranormal novel. Though I’m not a fan of the paranormal genre, I found this book entertaining and loved that Colleen continues to bring out the deep emotions from characters in her novels. I liked that as I was reading, I kept having theories on what was going on and what would happen next. The only parts that didn’t work for me was that the book felt a bit too love at first sight. There were also some parts where I kind of wanted to see Layla’s perspective instead. If you’re a Colleen Hoover fan, this may be on your list already. It wasn’t my favorite, but it was a decent read.

Review: 3/5

Review: Well Played

Well Played  by Jen DeLuca
Publication: Berkley
Publication Date: 9/22/2020

Disclaimer: I received a free advanced copy of this book from Berkley in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: Stacey is jolted when her friends Simon and Emily get engaged. She knew she was putting her life on hold when she stayed in Willow Creek to care for her sick mother, but it’s been years now, and even though Stacey loves spending her summers pouring drinks and flirting with patrons at the local Renaissance Faire, she wants more out of life. Stacey vows to have her life figured out by the time her friends get hitched at Faire next summer. Maybe she’ll even find The One.

When Stacey imagined “The One,” it never occurred to her that her summertime Faire fling, Dex MacLean, might fit the bill. While Dex is easy on the eyes onstage with his band The Dueling Kilts, Stacey has never felt an emotional connection with him. So when she receives a tender email from the typically monosyllabic hunk, she’s not sure what to make of it.

Faire returns to Willow Creek, and Stacey comes face-to-face with the man with whom she’s exchanged hundreds of online messages over the past nine months. To Stacey’s shock, it isn’t Dex—she’s been falling in love with a man she barely knows.

Review: I loved Well Met so I was super excited to get my hands on the sequel, Well Played, which features Stacey. Overall, Well Played was a cute romance, but it didn’t have the magic and flair of Well Met. I loved the setting vibes that the author had just like in the first book. It was also great to see what’s going on with Emily and Simon from the first book. One aspect I didn’t love was the love troupe. I really hope cat fishing doesn’t become a popular love troupe. I felt that Stacey and her love interest lacked chemistry and I wasn’t really shipping them as a couple. If you loved the first book, then you may enjoy this one since there are appearances of Emily and Simon. 

Rating: 3/5

Review: Anxious People

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
Publication: Atria Books
Publication Date: 9/8/2020

Disclaimer: I received an advanced digital copy of this book from Atria Books in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: A bank robber on the run locks himself in with an over-enthusiastic estate agent, two bitter IKEA-addicts, a pregnant woman, a suicidal multi-millionaire and a rabbit. In the end the robber gives up and lets everyone go, but when the police storm the apartment it is . . . empty.

In a series of dysfunctional testimonies after the event, the witnesses all tell their version of what really happened and it’s clear we have a classic locked-room mystery on our hands: How did the robber manage to escape? Why is everyone so angry? And: What is WRONG with people these days?

Review: I’ve read all of Backman’s novels and his latest book keeps up with the stride of his previous work! Backman has such an eloquent writing style bringing up important themes such as empathy, community, feeling ‘enough’, and mental health, in a way that resonates with you and really makes you think about them even after you’re done with the book. Honestly, it took me a while to figure how I wanted to rate Anxious People. At first, it took me a while to get into the book. There were some instances where I felt the author was rambling a bit and deriving from the story, however, everything ended up making sense at the end. I highly recommend picking up Anxious People. Be forewarned that I took my time reading Anxious People as you need to be in a certain headspace to read this one.

Rating: 4/5