From one classic film buff to another, this book was exactly my cup of tea. It's as campy and cliche as those classic 1930s films and captures the soul of the iconic movies like its title's original, It Happened One Night.
Let's start this review from the end: my final thoughts and a reflection on the shockingly low average rating of this book by other readers. I'm really sad to see the low average. But I get it, I do. I think this novel took so many nuances from the classic movies it was referencing—and in such an one-the-nose AND somehow subtly organic way—that it looped from a level of clever referencing back onto itself with an over-the-top edge that appears to have turned off several readers. This novel captured the camp and cliches TOO well, and therefore it seems like a some readers see this romance as derivative, ridiculous, and not authentic. (I am not trying to shame or call out anyone who didn't love this book, to each their own.)
As someone who's seen the movies that Lenker references in her afterword, I thought she nailed it. The soul of those movies and that era of filmmaking was captured in this novel—romanticized for the rom-com nature of the story, it's true, and omitting the period's racist ideals—and so It Happened One Fight felt like the best of fanfictions for themes and dialogues that I know so well.
Dialogue repetitive and themes over-dramatized? That was the early 1930s' jam!
Grandiose feelings and actions and constant external verbalizations of themes? This too was the era!
Joan Davis is a movie star, and a damned good actor, too. Unfortunately, Hollywood only seems to care when she stars alongside Dash Howard, Tinseltown's favorite leading man and a perpetual thorn in Joan's side. Davis and Dash, constantly together and constantly clashing—their onscreen chemistry leads to fantastic blowups on set, and their famous feud heightens each box office sale. It's a classic Hollywood setup, and Joan's tired of it.
So when Joan announces her engagement to Monty, another swoon-worthy Hollywood leading man, the LAST thing she expects is to find out that she's actually...already married? It turns out an onscreen marriage scene to Dash in an early film was much more legal than anyone thought. And somehow, a real marriage license made its way to a City Hall office.
Yep, that's right. Dash and Davis are actually husband and wife. And Joan is PISSED. (Dash's feelings are more on the humorous side, as he loves to see Joan spark with emotions.)
To fix this huge blunder, the two stars hightail it to Reno, where divorces are easier to grant after a quick 6-week residency. Their current film was already about a divorcee finding love on a remote ranch. A quick script rewrite and boom! Reno Rendezvous is ready for camera, set, action.
But six weeks is a long time to be that close together, and Joan and Dash are about to discover that their feelings might not be so simple after all. And they're already husband and wife, so... Cue some shenanigans on set and behind the scenes.
UGH. I loved this story. It was so much fun, and let's be honest: I did tear up there at the end. This romance was everything I was looking for in this setup, and the film buff in me enjoyed every reference. The characters were sweet, the plot was unique for the modern "illustrated cover romances" of today, and it was the perfect level of banter + slow burn + amusing setups.
I just think this novel is a lot of fun, folks, and the author did a superb job at honoring the source material and twisting it slightly for modern readers to enjoy without making the romance, the characters, or the setting feel too modern.
Come for the nod to the classics, stay for the nod to the classics. This is such a fun, lighthearted, and emotionally good time!
Emotional, the definition of "adorkable," and that classic Dade blend of gripping-yet-cozy concepts. At First Spite is a must-read!
When Athena Greydon's fiancé ends their engagement, she has no choice but to move into the Spite House she recklessly bought him as a wedding gift. This is a problem, for several reasons: The house, originally built as a brick middle finger to the neighbors, is only ten feet wide. Her ex's home is attached to hers. And Dr. Matthew Vine the Freaking Third (aka the uptight, judgmental jerk who convinced his younger brother to leave her) is living on the other side, only a four-foot alley away.
Oh yeah, things are about to get AWKWARD. (And it's already an awkward setup.)
Athena is now penniless, jobless, and friendless in a town holding both her ex-fiancé and his grumpy older brother. And the older brother is constantly running into her in the wild—making an already bad situation that much worse.
Both Athena and Matthew (that older brother) are in for a wild time of coincidences, conversational traps, and hilarious meet-cutes from hell.
So in way, can you really blame them when things start to cross that line from hate to something else...
Man, I am such a fan of Olivia Dade. This latest novel was an absolute joy to read and if you haven't read anything from her before, At First Spite is a great place to start. Great setting and great grumpy/sunshine hook with some subversions to the tropes that I was NOT expecting.
Athena and Matthew's journey toward love and acceptance gripped me for the entire reading experience. In fact, I read this in literally one evening—I couldn't stop!
Come for the one-of-a-kind housing setup hook, stay for the seriously deep emotional journeys these characters go through in their path to love.
However, a word of caution: there are some topics in this novel that I would consider firm triggers for certain readers. Please check out the warnings list at the beginning of the novel before committing to the read.
Thank you so much to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
Well I've clearly wasted many previous years without the joy that is Kennedy Ryan. Before I Let Go was nothing short of flawless.
Yasmen and Josiah Wade are divorced. After a cataclysmic series of tragedies, the Wades couldn't keep their foundation strong—they fractured in the aftermath of a sorrow so deep they couldn't reach each other. Their vows included "til the wheels fall off." They never imagined that anything could shake that unbreakable, lifetime love.
But something did, and now they're two separate ships.
Well... Not quite.
They're still co-parents of two beautiful children, Deja and Kassim, which they both co-raise with love and daily support.
They're also still co-owners of their business—the highly successful restaurant, Grits, is something they grew together and is almost as important to them as their children.
So the Wades are still a team... even if that team looks a little (lot) different these days.
Yasmen's spent two years in therapy, and with a healthier way to cope and the assistance of her therapist and medication, she's finally starting to feel like herself again after two years of endless night. She'll never, NEVER stop loving Josiah, even though she's the one who forced their hand into the situation of separation.
Josiah's always been strong. He won't stop for the bad things, because if he keeps moving those bad things will fade. He's been in constant motion ever since the wrecking ball hit. Every bone in Josiah's body will always love Yasmen. However, he knows that door is closed and all he can do is try to pick up his pieces and love what's left.
But where there is love... there is always a way back in. And the Wades are going to find that the light and love could reach them if they find a way to follow it.
Before I Let Go is a story of pain, grief, and recovery. It's a second-chance phoenix rising from the ashes. I sobbed my way through this reading experience—sometimes sad tears, sometimes happy tears, sometimes more. This was an emotional release of a book!
I aspire to have a life as rich and beautiful as Yasmen and Josiah's. From the tears and pain to the light and love, this was such a beautiful, real journey and I feel blessed to have had this reading experience in my life. I have no complaints, besides of course my own internal AGH! that it took me this long to try Kennedy Ryan.
This book might include some serious darkness, true, but it is really about the light that shines in all the cracks. What a stunning, utterly perfect read. Pick it up!
Note: This review is an older one of mine that somehow missed its review highlight. Because it is older, it's missing my usual long-form review format. I hope you enjoy this "reader's digest" version of my thoughts!
Broken Harbor was such an interesting installation of the Dublin Murder Squad, and it definitely feels similar to French's first novel, In The Woods.
This fourth installment of the Murder Squad follows Scorcher, a "my way or the highway" detective with a haunting childhood who ends up working on a truly bizarre case. In one of Ireland's abandoned house developments, in a town that used to be called Broken Harbor, a family is found dead. Two kids suffocated upstairs, the parents gruesomely attacked on the landing. The mother is alive, but spends much of the novel comatose in intensive care.
The murder is chilling, but the true fear comes from the state of the family's home—there are holes cut into the walls and the ceiling, obviously done on the fly and monitored by several video baby monitors. Someone's been watching this family. And we don't know who, or why.
The questions surround Scorcher and his partner, and French does what she does best: she chokes her protagonist with layers of the past and present, cascading into a crescendo that you can't help but become absorbed in. I find all of French's novels gripping, this is true, but Broken Harbor was an easy slam dunk of so many of my favorite things—the claustrophobic setting, the "watched" element of the found footage, the whodunit and whydunit converging into one mess. You won't be able to put this book down until you know the answer. And that answer might just surprise you...
Familiar detective paradigm aside, this novel truly crackled with suspenseful energy. French does it again.
Amy Imogene Reads
Just someone looking for her own door into Wonderland.