Review: The Royal We

Buy The Royal We on Amazon Here.

Dun dun da duuunnnn.

A blast from the past, friends! But not really, since I’ve just finally gotten around to reading The Royal We. I remember when this book came out in 2015 and immediately landed on all of the bestseller lists. Not being a particular fan of modern monarchs– I didn’t make it through season one of The Crown and, *GASP*, I didn’t watch either of the royal weddings– this wasn’t in my ‘to be read’ pile. However, I can’t resist a good romance. I requested an ARC for the much-anticipated sequel, The Heir Affair, and was granted a copy, so figured I’d go back and start with the first book in the series.

Let me just paint a picture for you really quickly, of my reading habits. Every morning, I wake up and do two hours of fasting cardio. That’s over ten miles on the treadmill, per day. This is my prime reading time, and really the only way I can keep going for that long. What does that mean? I’m not always the most patient or forgiving reader. This book had me excited to wake up and get on the treadmill. What a great surprise, to become so invested in and entertained by this silly, but endearing, novel. I’ve no clue how much of this is or isn’t “true”, as I don’t know much about the contemporary royals and their wives. I do think it’s interesting, reading it after Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle both married into the House of Windsor, as Bex reads like an amalgamation of both of those women, rather than solely Kate, after whom she was apparently modeled.

Regardless of the truth/lack thereof, there’s so much to enjoy. The plot is strong, the characters are mostly lovable, though they’re all flawed and have their own complexities (as far as characters in a romance have complexities, I mean). Usually, I’m the first to point out flat characters, a lack of overall edginess, and a book being too long. But here, where characters are boring/lack edge, it’s expected– hello, these are royals— if Bex were a drug kingpin or Wills Nick were turning tricks for play money, it would be insufferably unbelievable. There’s just enough scandal, but it all lies within the realm of possibilities, including the final, almost-relationship-ending scandal. (Yes, it’s far-fetched, but could I see it happening? Sure. There’s a reason such cliches exist. Though would a royal couple still go on to marry after such a scandal? That, I’m not necessarily buying. Though I will, for the sake of the sequel.) Which brings me to the length. Absolutely, this could’ve been shorter. But it’s such a fun ride, I wouldn’t have wanted it to end any sooner. In fact, I fully intend to ride this wave through the next installment of Bex and Nick’s story. Hey, we’re in quarantine. There are no rules here regarding guilty pleasures. Gotta make the best of it.

Stay tuned for my next review, of The Heir Affair, which is due for release June 16th, 2020.

Rating:

Assessment, four stars, like, rated, rating scale, rating stars ...
Rating: 4/5 stars

Review: The First Date

The First Date: A heartwarming and laugh out loud romantic comedy book that will make you feel happy by [Zara Stoneley]
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I don’t usually do too much research on a book before I request to read it, save for a quick scan of the synopsis and a look at the comps, so this one was my bad. I saw “from the author of New York Times bestseller The Wedding Date” and got the author confused for Jasmine Guillory. Oops. Anyway, the concept here is rom-com-cute: convinced she’s terrible at first dates, a broken-hearted bookstore employee doubles down on her conviction when she’s stood up before meeting her opposite, a serial dater who takes her on as his de facto student. Surprise, surprise, as their dates/lessons proceed, they reluctantly fall in love with one another.
What bothered me most with this book is not that it’s populated by cliché characters, nor that the plot refuses to veer from the expected. Instead, it is the insistence of the central character, Rosie, on comparing Noah to her father. I ‘get’ the abandonment issues, and I have compassion for the residual problems caused by an absent father, however, the constant reminder of her ‘plight’ was simultaneously a reminder of the story’s weaknesses. Instead of trusting in the reader’s ability to buy into the story and Rosie’s reticence in letting go or embracing her feelings for Noah, the author seems to have felt the need to ‘motivate’ this, but I think it wound up hurting the story. Clearly I wasn’t the only one bothered by this particular issue, as it’s mentioned in nearly every other sub-4-star review I’ve read.

Two+star+rating Stock Vectors, Images & Vector Art | Shutterstock
2.5/5 stars.

Review: Louisiana Lucky

Who says don’t judge a book by its cover? Julie Pennell’s latest effort, Louisiana Lucky, is just as adorable in its content as its cupcake-covered cover.

Three sisters win the Louisiana lottery, each winding up with 22 million dollars– life changing money for anyone. What I loved about this book is that, as fun as the book is itself, it has the added fun of putting yourself in that space. It stirred up thoughts of ‘what would I do with that money’, as I’m sure is the intention. In that way, it’s more of a collaborative, experiential book than most. All three storylines are sort of ridiculously predictable, as all three protagonists move along what is essentially the same arc, from barely getting by financially and emotionally, to the initial highs afforded by their new, spendy lifestyles. Not surprisingly, they’re all brought back down to face the old cliche, ‘money can’t buy you happiness’, or else some milder version of the curse of lottery winners. In the end, after they’ve learned their lessons, so to speak, all is well. Each emerges better for having experienced hardship (wiping their tears with money, I would imagine), but we as readers are left satisfied that the grass isn’t always greener. 

While the book isn’t groundbreaking, it’s well-written and delivers exactly what it promises: a cute story, likable characters, romance, and sisterhood. It offers a wonderful bout of escapism, which is particularly welcome at this time, given the current state of the world. I’d definitely like to read The Young Wives Club.

Rating: 3.5/5

Pre-order Louisiana Lucky on Amazon here.

 

Review: The Love Solution

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I’d give Ashley Croft’s The Love Solution a 2.5, as it really was just okay, but after having looked at the other reviews, I decided to round up to 3 stars (on Goodreads) because I don’t believe a book’s quality should be assessed based on the moral judgements of its readers. It’s one thing to say a book is poorly written, constructed, plotted, or its characters are one dimensional, etc. But to say ‘this book is not good because I disagree with the morality of the characters, choosing to use a love potion’, is silly. Not that I think the Love Bug story points add to the quality of the book as a whole; in fact, I actually think the book could’ve done without that bit entirely, and would’ve perhaps been stronger, as that whole back and forth was ultimately a bit pointless, and the characters and relationships were interesting enough on their own. Also, characters are meant to be flawed– and sure, maybe *you* are the kind of person who maintains utmost integrity, even in the face of heartbreak, and you would never succumb to your own desperate misery. But I’m not going to pretend for one single second that I couldn’t be led down a ‘dark path’, or that I’d label someone who did resort to something like a magic love pill as a ‘bad person’. Yeah, there are ethical issues with that– that’s precisely why we have Science Fiction (or, in this case, Romantic Comedies with Sci-Fi-Light elements), to extrapolate and tease out the potential pitfalls of such medical and technological advancements.

Outside of all that, The Love Solution is truly mediocre. It’s the kind of thing you pick up because you’ve exhausted everything other option, or because there’s a secondhand copy on sale for $1.99. Funny enough, after I wrote this review, I went to pull the Amazon link and it is indeed being offered for… $1.99. At least the publisher is aware what they have here, and they’re not price gouging their customers. It feels like it has been churned out, a bottom of the barrel tale that the author spruced up so she could make that next mortgage payment. It all feels very dated, in its language and domesticity, as if it was either created twenty years ago, or else is intended for an audience of senior citizens who prefer a more tame story. And, by the way, I don’t mean that as a cut down; I think it could be successful in assisted living book circles, and there’s not a ton geared towards that demographic.

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Buy The Love Solution on Amazon here.

Review: Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating

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This is my first foray into the duo that call themselves Christina Lauren, and I wasn’t disappointed. Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating is exactly what it claims to be: quirky heroine becomes best friends with the hottie from college, fun and emotional chaos ensues as they attempt to set one another up on blind dates that go poorly, until they realize they’re in love. It’s a simple romantic comedy, which is anything but simple to construct, so kudos to the authors.

Something that really stood out to me about this book is that you could almost feel the authors having fun together as they created their story. Obviously I got a sense of Josh and Hazel, who are both thought out and detailed characters, as I read, but there was also a pervasive sense of the authors. I could see Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings  sitting together, perhaps with mimosas on Sundays, shooting the shit, maybe sharing some anecdotes, and crafting these characters with whom they themselves have fallen in love. Maybe I’m wrong and they’ve just been paired together by their publisher and in reality, they barely speak to one another, working mostly over e-mail exchanges of chapters. In which case, bravo to them, as they’re even more brilliant than I thought.

Aside from that, what kept bouncing through my head were similarities to Helen Hoang’s debut The Kiss Quotient, which was released a mere three months before this. Both books are romantic comedies featuring extremely quirky/conventionally “undateable” lead females, hunky, Korean, men, with that cultural element being a nice little thread throughout. Not that I think there’s any plagiarism here– I’m sure this book was already at the presses when Kiss Quotient was released– but  I think that having read them in such close proximity, it flattened this for me. Both are well written, and I’d actually give the edge to Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Dating as far as writing is concerned. It is slightly more clever and the writers feel more seasoned in this genre, capturing all of the hallmarks of romantic comedy without crossing over into being cliche. This is especially clear in the sex scenes, which is maybe a strange thing to compare, and I’m certainly not a connoisseur of literary porn, but where Hoang’s scenes go too far overboard, Lauren is able to craft a steamy scene that doesn’t make you roll your eyes.

Would I recommend this book to fans of the genre? Absolutely. While it’s not breaking any boundaries, it ticks all the boxes for romantic comedy and would be a nice poolside read. If you’ve read Kiss Quotient, I’d give yourself a little breathing time so this doesn’t feel stale. Unless you were obsessed with that book and want more of the same, now, then have at it.

Rating: 3.5/5

Buy Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating on Amazon here.

Book Review: The Kiss Quotient

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Autism– especially the high-functioning end of the spectrum, commonly referred to as Asperger’s– has always fascinated me. I think because I’m almost always drawn to people (particularly men) who are treading the fine line between genius and mad, I’ve become well acquainted with the quirks, both positive and negative, that accompany Asperger’s. I loved John Elder Robison’s memoir, Look Me in the Eye, and enjoyed Mark Haddon’s hit Curious Incident. However, I haven’t had much experience with women on the spectrum. I had assumed that was because I seek male partners, and, I guess, I assumed that it was more common in males than females. But Hoang’s notes at the end of the book explain that women are diagnosed far less often because they are more likely to hide their symptoms. I’ve not yet researched this to fact-check it, but it’s definitely believable and interesting to consider.

Anyway, because of my own interest in Asperger’s, and particularly its effects on relationships, I was excited to read Helen Hoang’s highly-praised romance novel, The Kiss Quotient. After all, how great is it when pure entertainment (a la beachy, romance novels) and culturally/socially important messages are intertwined? Not only is it important to get diverse voices out into the zeitgeist, so that we may see things through new perspectives, but it also makes for unique characters that we’ve never seen before. In that sense, this book is successful. It’s cute and fun, culturally relevant, with an intelligent female at its core, and, most importantly, so heartfelt. I connected to Stella and her plight immediately, and that grip never loosened, despite the predictable plot, gratuitous sex scenes, and unrefined writing.

I really loved the world of this novel because of the central character, and I looked forward to returning to it each morning, but I think the writing lacked finesse. While I praise the author on being able to create such a strong emotional attachment to her characters and not let the science and math overwhelm, I think that it needed just a little more poetry and/or intellect injected into the actual writing. This was made even more apparent and at odds, given the supposed brilliance of the protagonist. Stella is portrayed as this phenomenal intellectual, but the immature writing stands in stark contrast. There weren’t any beautiful turns of phrase that I could hold on to and savor, which is one of the things I look for most when I’m reading. I love language, and while plot and emotion are just as important, you can’t sacrifice the words. That being said, it’s a cute novel and I look forward to reading Hoang’s next work.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Buy The Kiss Quotient on Amazon