Yes, I loved it just as much as the first one. Happiness is an Ali Hazelwood book.
Love on the Brain comes out on August 23!
There is no better way to start this review than by using what the book's description starts with:
Like an avenging, purple-haired Jedi bringing balance to the mansplained universe, Bee Königswasser lives by a simple code: What would Marie Curie do?
And with that, that's almost all you need to know about Love on the Brain, with the added information that this is an exquisite enemies-to-lovers romance with a dose of lighthearted angst—and absolutely jam-packed with bonkers humor.
Bee and Levi are ENEMIES. This is known. In grad school, Levi made it extremely clear that he couldn't stand the sight of Bee and made it his mission to avoid her at all possible costs. Bee never really understood how she came to acquire an arch nemesis, but she rolled with it and life moved on. They both graduated and Bee thought she'd never see Levi again.
But of course, life has a funny way of dealing with your expectations.
When the opportunity of the lifetime lands in Bee's lap—working for NASA as their lead neuroscientist for a cool project—Bee is over the moon! This is it! Her dream, coming true! What could go wrong!
Well, Levi is listed as the engineering co-lead to the project. That is definitely a wrinkle.
Can these two scientists become more than nemesis?
Y'ALL. I thought The Love Hypothesis was in danger of being a one-hit wonder. It was too funny, too lovable, and too tailored to that perfect blend of steamy romance and plot. It was perfect—and how often do we get multiple perfects in a row with an author? It was the perfect storm of all of my favorite things and I thought to myself "there's now way that Ali Hazelwood can match herself with the next book."
Well, I'm eating my hat today. Hazelwood matched her energy with this one and then some--Love on the Brain was everything I wanted it to be and yet also, somehow, still fresh. How she managed to take a similar STEM-based setup and bring new feelings, scenarios, and characters to the table baffles my mind, but I digress. This was 10/10, my sweet cinnamon roll, the peanut butter to The Love Hypothesis' jelly, the answer to our Science! hetero romance dreams.
Read it, love it, and then come back here and rant to me about it because I would love that.
Bring on the next one, Ali!!
Thank you to Berkley for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
I think the concepts, representation, and emotional journeys were all top tier. I laughed out loud a lot and absolutely loved the side characters with all of my soul. But I must say, the actual plot and pacing were dull by comparison.
Representation: all of the stars
Viola Carroll is finally living the the life she's always wanted. When Waterloo and the war gives her the perfect opportunity to disappear for good and start a new, true life for herself as Viola, she runs with it and never looks back.
But Viola's past has not fully escaped her, and one of the people from her past haunts her still. Her childhood best friend, Justin Gracewood, needs help.
The Duke of Gracewood is in mourning for his lost best friend. He blames himself for the loss, the war, and for his disability returning from the warfront. Gracewood is slipping into an opium dependency and a depression with no light in sight. Things are dire.
When Viola learns of Gracewood's distress, she and her sister-in-law, the Lady Marleigh, decide to intervene. Viola knows she's playing with fire—how long can she hide her very-much-alive presence from her oldest friend?—but the choice is a done deal. She is going to help Gracewood no matter the cost.
But Viola's new ability to explore life as her true womanly self has opened up yet another wrinkle when it comes to Gracewood: she can no longer ignore the fact that her feelings for him are considerably more than friendly.
Will these two old friends see past themselves and achieve an ideal form of happiness?
Quaint, happy, and filled with heart, A Lady for a Duke is a shining example of a new type of inclusive historical romance.
Let's start this reaction off with some honesty: I am very conflicted about my star rating of this review.
On the one hand, I want to support this title and showcase how happy I am to see it exist, see it hold such a positive and happy storyline, and see it receive a wide readership. Squeals all around, this was adorable and wonderful and I felt all of the feelings.
On the other hand, I have to discuss the significant flaws in this novel's pacing, plot construction, and overall sense of boringness due to its drawn out pacing and lackluster scenes.
This novel is almost 500 pages long... and it feels like it. Cute scenes of emotional honesty between Viola and Justin were awesome and I loved them, but after the 200 page mark it became painfully obvious that we as readers were going to basically experience the same variant of the same type of emotional scene over and over again. Viola and Justin have barely any drama—which was good for the health of their relationship—but it did lead to a lack of opportunity for newness in their dialogue and interactions. Justin reassures Viola about X, Viola reassures Justin about Y....wash and repeat. So many of their scenes could have been remixed into any spot in the plot and been completely fine, that's how identical in tone and importance they were.
The only spot of freshness in this story did not come from the main characters at all—it came from the side characters, Lady Marleigh (sister-in-law to Viola) and Lady Gracewood (Justin's younger sister). They were doing fresh things in this story, thank goodness, and Justin and Viola got to semi-react to those events throughout the novel. But that did make for awkward reading in a romance subniche that tends to rely on its main characters to provide the agency in a story.
Definitely a conflict, and frankly a good one to have as again, the fact that this book is here at all on the bookshelves in the store is a wonderful thing. I'm glad this book exists and that I can quibble over its issues—but as a reviewer I do still need to highlight them.
Eagerly looking forward to more fresh stories in the historical romance canon to join this one on the shelves.
These historical romances are like candy, you just can never have enough. When one young woman discovers her respectable, aristocratic husband died and left her to discover that she was actually one of three wives? Whew. Bit of a pickle.
Katherine Vareck shows up to her late husband's will reading and discovers, to her shock, that she is not the only Mrs. at the table. In fact, she's one of three wives... and all three of them are in for a real mess.
Enter Christian, the deceased's older brother and the Duke of Ransford.
Christian had no idea about these three wives, or his brother Meriwether's appalling lack of decency. Christian knows he needs to do some sort of right by these women, but he's not sure what to do and his own personal situation is in an interesting spot as well—so he's not sure what he can do, anyway.
With drama, wiles, and a whole lot of surprising business acumen, Christian and Katherine find themselves working together to support the other two wives, themselves, and potentially each other in this charming series opener.
Overall, I thought this story was cute and charming. It was not the most memorable for me, personally, as a romance reader—but I've had a pretty hard time with historical romances this year in general so it might just be my burnout talking.
Some unique elements of this story centered around the dynamic of Katherine and Christian, surprisingly. Unlike many, MANY other Regency-era romances that rely on animosity, misunderstandings, and mild enemies-to-lovers to make their characters pop, A Duke in Time actually started off with its love interests tackling their problem together, as a team very squarely on board with each other's place in their duo. It was refreshing and oddly charming.
If you're a fan of historical romances, add this one to your list!
Thanks so much to St Martin's Press for my copy in exchange for an honest review
A very different historical romance... One with lots of caves and a Romeo and Juliet-style feud.
A Reckless Match comes out on September 28!
Maddie Montgomery's family has been in a feud with the neighboring Davies family for generations. By order of the Royal family, each year a representative of the Montgomery family and a representative of the Davies family must meet on the borderlands of their estates and shake hands to seal their yearly agreement—if either party fails to show up, the strip of borderland is taken from the no-show family.
Maddie thinks her family might just win this year... until Gryff Davies shows up on his horse, freshly returned from the war and looking Fine with a capital F.
Gryff's childhood crush on Maddie Montgomery was something of his past, Gryff thought. But when he sees Maddie on the border, he realizes he was just lying to himself. She's the only person who makes him feel something, and he's not sure he can bear to see her getting married off...
Will these two lifelong "enemies" meet their match?
I thought this series debut was entertaining enough, but to be honest I think this was a case of "it's not the book, it's just me and my reading tastes again" because I had a really hard time getting through A Reckless Match. And objectively, this was a wonderfully fresh historical romance. For one thing, there's a lot of adventure and cave exploring. How many historical romances set in England can say that?
This novel does include the "virgin female" trope, which is a personal dislike of mine. It also moved quite slowly and seemed to conveniently wrap up every plot point. Again, neither of those qualms are necessarily bad, but given my personal romance preferences they served to keep me from fully engaging in the story.
If you like historical English romances, feuding families, or caves, I do recommend this one!
Thank you to St Martin's Press for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
This had a bit of an odd start, but once it got going this turned into an adorable historical romance.
Edwina Dalrymple lives on the fringes of London society. The illegitimate daughter of an Earl who has no desire to claim her, she's made her living as an etiquette governess, one charged with teaching young charges the in's and out's of London's ton in order for them to make the best first impressions.
But when Edwina is hired by the Duke of Bentley to bring his illegitimate son, Rafe Audley, back into the London fold after being raised in the miner's community of the English countryside... Edwina realizes she might have bitten off more than she could chew.
Despite their similar life experiences as both being bastard-born, Rafe and Edwina have very different options on London's wealthy upper class and how it affects them.
Rafe Audley has no intention of leaving his life as a mining foreman and becoming a Duke's son. He's thirty-one and he's happy with his lot in life.
But Edwina can't let that stand—she's being paid a lot of money to secure his return to London society, and Edwina's future is at stake as her entire career is based on previous employer references.
Edwina needs to get him to London. Rafe swears that will never happen.
Cue the shenanigans.
I thought Along Came a Lady was cute, filled with commentary on birthrights and the hypocrisy of London's upper society, and surprisingly fun to read. Edwina and Rafe played the grouchy/sunshine trope to perfection and I loved all of their interactions. Would I read a sequel on them? YES!
My one caveat was that I thought the ending was a little abrupt... I wanted more of a conclusion/epilogue than the abrupt happy ending that we got. It was great, I just wanted to see them... enjoy that moment beyond the page. But overall, extremely cute and a great historical romance for fans of the genre.
Thank you to Berkley Romance for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
I liked it, didn’t love it sadly. There were tropes in here that I should have known would bother me, and then they did—so this is definitely an example of "Amy should read the summary first" and not a problem of the book!
Steam factor: ★★★ (for Tessa, this was bland)
Pacing: ★★ 1/2
Enjoyment: ★★★ 1/2
A quick disclaimer: I LOVE Tessa Bailey! This might have been a miss for me, but it was for personal, niche reasons and not for a poorly-executed story. This review is a little meh, a little gripe-y, and overall lackluster. That was totally me not enjoying the tropes written on the tin and not a reflection on the book.
In Tessa Bailey's latest novel, It Happened One Summer, Tessa takes on some romance trope titans: the small-town coastal community, the "airhead, sheltered" main female character, and the trope of "finding true meaning in the simple life."
If it sounds like K.A. Tucker's The Simple Wild to you, then you'd be right. I would say that this novel follows a similar blueprint to K.A. Tucker with some different twists and a different ending of sorts (so for those who have read that one, I'm not spoiling this book by comparing the two).
In a bizarre move that sounds ridiculous as I type it out, I'm going to recommend this book by highlighting all of the things I didn't like about it... because I think this is the perfect romance for the right reader and it's just my cranky self that hates these things.
1.) If you loved The Simple Wild, you'll love this. Lots of similarities with enough unique twists to be a different reading experience.
2.) If you like the idea of your main character being a transplant into a community/situation/set-up where she is at a huge disadvantage and does not know how to cope and is constantly seen as the rich/spoiled/sheltered female, then you'll enjoy this setup of a Californian, rich social media influencer transplanted into this coastal Pacific Northwest town.
3.) If you like your romances with very little drama—and when it gets to the drama, it's of the low-stakes variety—then you'll love this story. This is a not an angsty ride through the trenches.
4.) If you're looking for a story that handles plot first, romance second, and sex third, then you'll enjoy this story. For Tessa, who is known for some steamy scenes and content, I thought this was... really tame. Not sure why. It was definitely a departure from her other work.
Overall, not for me, but I did think it was cute. I am interested in the next book in the series, as it sounds like the tropes are much more up my alley. We'll see!
Favorite in the series?? YES.
Act Your Age, Eve Brown is the third and final book in the Brown sisters trilogy, but as it's a romance series, each book is a great entry point into the universe. I recommend this to series readers and new readers both.
Eve was the sister that I connected to the least in the first few books, so I was really interested to see how Talia Hibbert was going to take her story. Eve is the youngest sister, the one with the most interesting (cough cough, flighty) career backstory, and she's also the wild child of the family.
So when Eve's parents put their feet down and tell her she's got to settle down and stick with a job, Eve is NOT happy. She knows she's been riding the high of no consequences and no responsibilities for a while, but this was... harsh.
So Eve gets in her car and drives into the English countryside. She stops at a quaint town. She sees a "Cook Wanted" sign at a cute bed and breakfast, and she interviews on the spot.
Jacob Wayne is the owner of said bed and breakfast. A man with a steel-fisted sense of control and manuals on manuals to "How-To" his way to success, Jacob can't rationalize Eve. He also can't stop fixating on her. He turns her down for the job.
Then Eve runs him over in her car—by accident!!—and fractures his arm. Now Jacob has no choice: it's Eve or bust as he's approaching a festival deadline and he needs the help.
What will Eve, the purple-haired feisty wild child, and Jacob, the tight-laced buttoned up soul, do with each other??
Obviously fall in love.
Oh, oh, OHHHHHHH this was so. much. fun. I could not get ENOUGH of this story!
I laughed! I threw the book down due to secondhand embarrassment! I thought Eve and Jacob were precious! The autism rep! The conversations about love and intimacy! The sex!
Nothing negative. I don't have anything intellectual to say (sorry), I just have insane amounts of fangirl screaming to shout down the internet void at you, reading this review.
3.5 stars, rounded up!
An American railroad heiress, an English duke in need of funds, and an arranged marriage with a lot angst and chemistry than anyone is expecting.
August Crenshaw is the oldest daughter of an American railroad tycoon. She's got a head for figures and enough ambition to hold her own... and yet. When her parents give her and her younger sister, Violet, the ultimatum that one of them must marry a duke in England... August can't believe it. Will she have to compromise on her autonomy and freedom sooner than she planned?
Evan Sterling, the Duke of Rothschild, is up to his ears debt thanks to his father. Evan never planned on being the duke of the family and he certainly never planned on having to save his family from ruin, but here he is. When the Crenshaw family shows up in England in need of a title, Evan sees a way out. But then he meets August in an underground brawl in Whitechapel and one fated kiss will forever change the outcome...
As August and Evan navigate the tangled landscape of England's Society, her parents expectations, and Evan's desire to win August on his own merit and not for his title, they find they might be in for more than they bargained for.
I thoroughly enjoyed this debut. It had some refreshing twists on some old tropes and I LOVED how August's fierce need for independence shown through as both a positive trait AND a negative one. I know how bizarre that sounds, but hear me out—she's stubborn to the point of ignoring her own desires and the facts around her, and to be honest that bites her in the butt. I liked the realism of that, and how it made her character more human and less "perfect protagonist."
There's also the perfect set up for the next novel, of course, with August's younger sister Violet in need of a duke of her own...
Looking forward to reading that one too!
Thank you to Berkley for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
The last of a trilogy, and it feels like it—this was a nostalgic run through of this series' highlights and a long-awaited romance from two opposing characters. Bring on the tension, the drama, and the steam! (And a house-flip reality TV show?? I should probably mention that first.)
Standalone factor: ★
Overall Enjoyment: ★★★★ 1/2
Tools of Engagement comes out on September 22!
So, real quick - NO, this is not a standalone despite what the marketing says. This is the third book in a trilogy of related characters in a small town and it feels like it. This was SO not a bad thing for me, a devoted reader to the series, but might be for you so please keep that in mind.
Bethany Castle lives a flawless life. No really, she totally does. Ignore the fact that she's hyperventilating in the corner and has a stress rash on her neck and is incapable of letting anyone know the crushing level of perfectionism that keeps her awake at night. Everything is fine, life is perfect, and she is a flawless 30 year old.
The only in Bethany's "perfect" life that upends her image is Wes Daniels.
A cowboy hat wearing, 23-year-old freewheeling guy who lived a spontaneous life until his half sister dumped her 5 year old niece in his lap, Wes Daniels works for Stephen Castle (Bethany's older brother) and flips houses. Wes has been circling Bethany for months and he thinks he's got her number: one day the tension will snap, and they're going to settle things in the sheets.
But then Wes sees the Perfect Life™ of Bethany's dreams is actually just a flimsy sheet in the wind and he realizes that this isn't a game—it's something bigger.
Now let's add in the fact that Bethany and her brother Stephen are asked to compete in a "Flip Off" HGTV reality show of epic sibling rivalry proportions and we've got ourselves some DRAMA.
Will Bethany and Wes get to the good stuff, or will Bethany's need for perfection collapse on top of them under the pressure of the film lights?
Ready, set, ACTION.
What an ending to this trilogy! This installment takes the characters' careers (house building and flipping) to its most literal interpretation: an HGTV competition show. As someone who normally doesn't like the "movie set" life depicted in books, I could handle this one because it really didn't matter to the plot. This was very much a story about Bethany and Wes, and barely involved the "movie" element at all.
This was also the least steamy of the three books, which was interesting. Given the crackling dialogue between Wes and Bethany in the first books, I was ready for some serious steam. There was steam... but I'd almost call it tame compared to Fix Her Up and Love Her or Lose Her. Something to note for those who really enjoyed that element of Bailey's other books.
Like I said at the beginning, if you're new to this series this is NOT the book to start on. Wes and Bethany's plot line relies heavily on prior knowledge of their interactions in the previous books, and their side plots with the other characters are absolutely meaningless without that added background.
Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
I adore this series. Historical romance with a slap of women's suffrage? BRING it, babe, and keep them coming.
Historic vibes: ★★★★ 1/2
Witty dialogue: ★★★★★
A Rogue of One's Own comes out on September 1, 2020!
This is fast becoming one of my favorite series in the niche genre of historical romances. Neck in neck with Tessa Dare's Girl Meets Duke series, this is filled to the brim with witty banter, sharp women, self aware yet powerful men, and a historical setting with a refreshingly modern sense of female independence. (Okay, that last one obviously bends the rules of "historical accuracy," but excuse me... this is a romance and I'm not complaining.)
Lucie is not happy. A woman who has given up her reputation in society and worked herself to the bone for The Cause (women's rights), Lucie is finally at the point where she and her team of Oxford suffragists have successfully landed a spot to shine the light on their cause: They've purchased 50% of the shares of a publishing house, and they mean to use them to fight the good fight and spread the word.
The only thing in Lucie's way is Lord Tristan Ballentine.
Tristan and Lucie grew up together, and Lucie cannot BELIEVE that at this moment, the most important moment of her Cause, it's Tristan standing in her way. As far back as she can remember, it was Tristan in her path. He threw pranks her way, he never left her alone, and he never disappeared from her line of sight. Of course, these days he's keeping himself in her life by flaunting his lovers and sexual escapades in the society's gossip rags.... but still.
Tristan Ballentine has bought the other 50% of shares at the publishing house.
Lucie's not about to let that stand. She's ready for battle, and as always, Tristan is there ready to spar. What could possibly make Tristan do this?
Well, if the man has been infatuated with the spitfire suffragist since she was old enough to slap him at the age of 13, that's his business. He's spent decades doing everything he possibly can to provoke a reaction from Lucie. But this time, Tristan's actions aren't necessarily about Lucie, and he's found himself on the other side of the sparring field quite by accident.
He guesses it's time to see how far this can go. Oh dear, Lucie. Get ready for a ride.
LOVED this, folks. Perfectly paced hate-to-love romance, with a huge dash of mutual angst and pining because, duh, it's also historical. One of the best elements of historical romances is the strict society rules, and how our heroes decide to subvert them. This story was no exception. Their ending was perfect for their character arcs.
Tristan and Lucie's chemistry zings. Really zings. I loved their back stories, their reasonings, and even enjoyed the stereotypical elements of "reluctant historical female meets notorious rogue" that usually sets my teeth on edge. Because Lucie's character was so independent and strong, I didn't mind. She held her own and then some.
Also, it must be said that the author does a fantastic job of grounding us in the time period of women fighting for their rights in England. There's a section of notes in the back explaining where things fit into the real historic timeline, and I really appreciated it.
Thank you to Berkley for an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.
Amy Imogene Reads
Just someone looking for her own door into Wonderland.