Review: Astrid Parker Doesn’t Care by Ashley herring Blake

Title: Astrid Parker Doesn’t Care

Author:Ashley herring Blake

Pub. Date: November 22nd 2022

Genre: Contemporary Romance/LGBTQIA+

Format: eARC

Publisher: Berkley

Pages: 368

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☆☆ARC provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review☆☆╮

☆☆This review may contain spoilers for Delilah Green Doesn’t Care (Bright Falls #1)☆☆

We’re back in Bright Falls with my favorite cast of queer women and this time the spotlight is on Astrid Parker. We first met Astrid in Delilah Green Doesn’t Care (my review) as the estranged step-sister of Delilah who Was set to get married and live the ideal life her mother had always dreamed of her having. Fast forward to a year later and Astrid Parker is a single woman who is laser sharp focused on her career/family owned business in interior design. The only thing is that the phones aren’t ringing and the projects have slowed down, Astrid is looking for a lifeline. When Pru Everwood asks Astrid to be the designer for the Everwood Inn whose renovation is being broadcast on the popular home improvement show Innside America, Astrid seizes the lifeline. What she wasn’t expecting was having all of her design ideas sabotaged by Pru’s frustratingly attractive granddaughter Jordan Everwood. The Everwood is also in need of a liefeline, its been a long time since guests have booked the place. If this renovation and media coverage don’t change its fortune, Pru Everwood may have to shutter its doors for good.

Jordan and her twin brother spent summers in the Everwood Inn and she feels Astrid’s clean linen and modern/sleek designs don’t quite capture the character of the place. As the lead carpenter on the project, she begins to make some changes to Astrid’s designs that result in some tension build-up while being filmed for the show. The show runners are LIVING for it and want them both to kind of play it up some more for the ratings which would result in good publicity for them both. This was never Jordan’s intention, after having her relationship fall apart unexpectedly and her work deeply affected by it…she was just looking to get back on track and prove to her brother and grandmother that she’s climbing out of her depression. 

*•.¸♡ 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐓𝐰𝐨 𝐨𝐟 𝐂𝐮𝐩𝐬 𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐫𝐞𝐝 𝐛𝐚𝐜𝐤 𝐚𝐭 𝐡𝐞𝐫, 𝐣𝐮𝐬𝐭 𝐚𝐬 𝐢𝐭 𝐡𝐚𝐝 𝐦𝐨𝐬𝐭 𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐩𝐚𝐬𝐭 𝐦𝐨𝐧𝐭𝐡. 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐜𝐡𝐞𝐞𝐤𝐲 𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐭𝐥𝐞 𝐛𝐚𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐫𝐝 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐢𝐧 𝐨𝐧 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐬𝐨𝐫𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐩𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐤 𝐚𝐠𝐚𝐢𝐧𝐬𝐭 𝐡𝐞𝐫. 𝐄𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲 𝐧𝐨𝐰 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐧 𝐬𝐡𝐞’𝐝 𝐩𝐮𝐥𝐥 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐝𝐢𝐟𝐟𝐞𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐭, 𝐚 𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐝𝐨𝐦 𝐖𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐨𝐫 𝐏𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐚𝐜𝐥𝐞 𝐨𝐫 𝐚 𝐠𝐨𝐨𝐝 𝐨𝐥𝐝 𝐅𝐨𝐨𝐥 𝐨𝐫 𝐇𝐢𝐞𝐫𝐨𝐩𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐨𝐫 𝐌𝐨𝐨𝐧. 𝐒𝐡𝐞’𝐝 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐧 𝐭𝐚𝐤𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐝𝐢𝐬𝐚𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐬 𝐓𝐨𝐰𝐞𝐫 𝐫𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐧𝐨𝐰. 𝐀𝐭 𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐭 𝐢𝐭 𝐰𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐟𝐢𝐭 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐥𝐢𝐟𝐞. ♡¸.•*

Soulmates and Tarot. Need I say more?!? ok there’s also the BEST character redemption arc I’ve come across in romance. I was not a fan of Astrid at all when I read Delilah green Doesn’t Care and when I started reading this book, I still wasn’t sold on her. Then I started seeing Astrid for who she really is, when all the need to meet her mother’s expectations just stops. This is when we really start seeing Astrid, a 30 something year old who is late to discovering who she really is but is choosing to step out and do so anyways. She’s exploring her sexuality and questioning her career choices. It’s not often that we get stories centered around woman in their 30’s redefining their lives. Jordan however is my favorite MC, she’s had her heart broken by someone she cared deeply for and thought was her soulmate. This doesn’t stop her from believing her soulmate is out there, her tarot cards won’t let her forget. Second chances in love and life, soulmates, and rediscovering passions while having an amazing group of supportive friends/found family…I may love this one more than Delilah Green Doesn’t Care? but good luck making me choose!


Spoiler Free Review: A Very Merry Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams

Title: A Very Merry Bromance

Author: Lyssa Kay Adams

Pub. Date: November 1st 2022

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Format: eARC

Publisher: Berkley

Pages: 368

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☆☆ARC provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review☆☆╮

The fifth installment in the Bromance Bookclub romance series gives us a pinch of The Grinch and a dash of ​the Ghosts of Christmas past. This time around big time country music star Colton Wheeler is going through the motions after a year of not hearing from Gretchen Wheeler, the woman who stole his heart and never looked back. Gretchen is an immigration lawyer with a grinchlike approach to Christmas, how can anyone celebrate and buy lavish gifts when there are families being torn apart. Her clients are marginalized people who are just trying to survive while putting food on the table. When her wealthy family comes calling for her to make an appearance at their estate, Gretchen begrudgingly gives in and goes to see why they’re looking for her. A deal is presented to her, get Colton Wheeler to be the new face of their family owned/renowned whiskey and she’ll be given a seat on their charity board. An opportunity to give back to the community she works in and with is something she can’t turn down even if it means swallowing her pride to talk to Colton. Colton agrees only on the condition that she go on three dates with him leading up to Christmas, the holiday she is accustomed to work on. This Grumpy/Sunshine Christmas romance had a little of everything including the found family vibes we’ve all come to look from these books. 

What I loved? Colton’s optimism and holiday spirit, found family vibes, seeing the club members and their wives, the deep dive into Gretchen’s childhood/trauma and finally the emphasis on self worth/self care. These books gift us with fictional men who actually care about working through toxic masculinity and maintaining healthy relationships with the women they are dating. This is the fifth book in the Bromance Bookclub series so we’ve seen the guys meet and fall in love with women from all walks of life. Some are repairing/salvaging marriages they want to stay in and none of them are quick to throw in the towel. I love when character’s are well fleshed out and their careers/hobbies are further explored. Colton’s music career is on the line when he has a bit of writers block and isn’t able to compose music to the standard that made him a big country star. Gretchen could’ve taken the easy route and stepped into a role in the family business, instead we see an immigration lawyer who is very empathetic and actively looking for ways to make a difference in marginalized communities. I follow Lyssa Kay Adams on Goodreads and see that the next release will be a Historical Romance companion to the Bromance Bookclub slated for Summer 2023, something to look forward to! 


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Spoiler Free Review: The Secret Society Of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna

Title: The Very Secret Society Of Irregular Witches 

Author: Sangu Mandanna

Pub. Date: August 23rd 2022

Genre: Contemporary Romance/Paranormal

Format: eARC

Publisher: Berkley Books

Pages: 336

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☆☆ARC provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review☆☆╮

╰☆☆ “𝐌𝐚𝐠𝐢𝐜 𝐦𝐞𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐰𝐞𝐥𝐥, 𝐛𝐮𝐭 𝐢𝐭 𝐝𝐢𝐝 𝐬𝐨 𝐰𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐛𝐞 𝐮𝐬𝐞𝐝 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐢𝐭 𝐡𝐚𝐝 𝐚𝐧 𝐢𝐫𝐤𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐡𝐚𝐛𝐢𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐚𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐦𝐚𝐭𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐨 𝐢𝐭𝐬 𝐨𝐰𝐧 𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐝𝐬 𝐢𝐟 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐜𝐡𝐞𝐬 𝐝𝐢𝐝𝐧’𝐭 𝐭𝐚𝐤𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐭.” ☆☆╮

When thinking of books that give off cozy warm blanket paired with a cup of hot coco vibes, The Very Secret Society Of Irregular Witches should just magically materialize! quaint and whimsical best describe the setting of Nowhere House where we find a cast of characters that will steal your heart. Mika Moon is a witch who lives a very solitary life in an effort to protect her identity as well as that of the other witches in her network. It’s very rare these witches meet up but when they do, their leader Primrose makes it a point to emphasize their under the radar lifestyle. Mika however has found a clever way to not feel so alone. She streams videos of herself sharing magical elixir/potion making recipes under the guise that it’s all in good fun. Until her videos catch the attention of Ian, an octogenarian retired actor who is desperate to get her assistance. The estate of Nowhere House has been left the charge of three young witches who are in absolute need of guidance and training. Will Mika accept the offer to teach the girls how to control their powers? 

Mika Moon is an Indian British witch with a penchant for naming her pets after mythological figures, she was lovely to meet on the page. There’s a lot of loneliness surrounding our MC even though she comes off super warm and kind hearted…not someone you’d take for living in isolation. It’s almost kismet that she’d meet such a loving welcoming bunch, some of who make it their mission to make her feel at home. Ian is dramatic and enchanted by Mika from the start, he very much gives off retired actor vibes. His husband Ken is Japanese and works as the Groundskeeper for the estate, he’s more laid back and serious. Ian and Ken are happily married and in love. Lucie is the plus sized 56 year old Housekeeper who will remind you she’s still young, I LOVED her! Jamie is our 36 year old Irish curmudgeonly love interest. He’s the librarian who is equal parts grumpy and protective over the young witches and also Mika. Altamira, Terracotta, and Rosetta are the young witches we meet with mischievous energy! I can easily see this turned into a movie and I’d buy my ticket on day one. I LOVED the fact that Ian specifically wanted Mika a woman of color to be the one to train these young children of color how to properly wield and control their magical abilities. The potion mixing was a plus, Mika’s Golden Retriever Circe was a plus, and the witty banter/slow burn between Mika and Jamie was *chefs kiss* perfection! this book was MAGIC Book Lovers! ❤ 


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Spoiler Free Review: Love On The Brain by Ali Hazelwood

Title: Love On The Brain

Author: Ali Hazelwood

Pub. Date: August 23rd 2022

Genre: Contemporary Romance/Rom-COM

Format: eARC

Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group

Pages: 368

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☆☆ARC provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review☆☆╮

*•.¸♡ 𝐘𝐨𝐮 𝐝𝐨𝐧’𝐭 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐧 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐚𝐝𝐦𝐢𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐬𝐞𝐥𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐥𝐨𝐯𝐞 𝐦𝐞, 𝐁𝐞𝐞. 𝐆𝐨𝐝 𝐤𝐧𝐨𝐰𝐬 𝐈 𝐥𝐨𝐯𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐞𝐧𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐛𝐨𝐭𝐡 𝐨𝐟 𝐮𝐬 – 𝐋𝐞𝐯𝐢 𝐖𝐚𝐫𝐝 ♡¸.•*

Bee Königswasser has been given the opportunity to work as the lead on a neuroengineering project with NASA to create a helmet for astronauts that would improve their focus. She’s excited up until she finds out Levi aka the guy who she believes hates her, will be the co-lead engineer on the project. She feels he made his feelings toward her known during grad school and the last thing she’d fathom is having to work in close proximity with someone who loathes her. She asks herself what would her idol the French Physicist Marie Curie do if she were in her shoes? readily acknowledging that Marie would accept this opportunity no questions asked, Bee decides to accept. Soon after she introduces herself to the team (all dude bros), all sorts of hijinks occur to prevent Bee from actually doing her job. We see Levi begin to back her up as she’s presenting her ideas/suggestions and quickly turns into more of an ally than enemy. Bee is very aware of his presence and stolen glances so much so that she starts to enjoy their collaboration. All the while reminding herself that Levi still fundamentally hates her. 

I’ll preface this part of my review by mentioning that I’ve seen many reviews since I finished my read and although I agree that there’s a specific formula to all of these “Steminist” books, I enjoyed this more than The Love Hypothesis. The biggest standout difference for me is that both leads/romantic love interests are thoroughly fleshed out making it easy to connect and root for this ship. I LOVED the insider look we get to the actual project and seeing Bee leave a lot of dude bros in awe as she strutted her knowledge in her area of expertise. I also loved seeing Levi go from silent bystander to someone in Bee’s corner who can’t stand when his male colleagues make it difficult for her to work. I loved the fact that Bee hates that it takes Levi backing her in order for the team to give her the time of day. She draws parallels between her current situation and that of Marie Curie who had to fight for an ounce of respect/recognition as a female Physicist during the early 1900’s. It’s not often that I end up LOVING the male lead but Levi has my whole heart simply because he’s a feminist that genuinely wants to see change in their field of work. If you can get past the many mentions of Levi’s large manly frame 😂 and Bee being overly oblivious, there’s a lot to love:

🧪Empowered women in STEM
🧪Tropes: Hate to love (kinda)/Close proximity
🧪Twitter threads/wars for entertainment
🧪feisty invisible 🐈
🧪Vegan love
🧪🧠 talk as they race to perfect a helmet for NASA
🧪Male lead is a feminist
🧪The humor was 👌🏽if it can get me to laugh out loud, then and only then it gets placed on my rom-COM faves shelf 😉


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August 2022 Reading Wrap-Up

  It seems only right that my first wrap up in a very long time coincides with the very first taste of cool weather here in New York City. While it was fun making my own Starbucks Oat milk Shaken Espressos at home, I’m ready for a lower maintenance hot cup of coffee this Fall. August was a month of spending time with friends, family and one VERY LONG road trip that ended up being an awesome time! it was also a month of consistently training my Brittany puppy Reese who is 8 months old and ready to tackle September’s hiking trails. Over on Bookstagram I get a lot of questions about Reese, so far he’s learned the commands sit, stay, drop it, paw, high five, down, and with me. His favorite words are eat, water, Dentastick, outside and go which he translates as run. Potty training was a labor of love but we’ve got him going outside every 8 hours/3x per day with no inside accidents *victory dance*

On the BOOKISH FRONT I surprised myself with reading seven books since I typically don’t really go beyond five or six during the month. Part of this is because physical fitness has amped up my audiobook listening. It’s not always that I want to jump into a book and for those days I’ve started listening to Podcasts. I’ve found some new faves to listen to while also admitting to myself that this is the reason why my TBR is once again bursting at the seams. These are some that I feel do a great job of covering new releases as well as hitting those backlist titles. To name a few: Reading Through life, From The front Porch, The Bookish Banter Podcast, Literally Reading, The Currently Reading Podcast, The Bibliovert Podcast and All the Books! (Book Riot)

My reading was giving off Fall vibes all throughout August, none of these were light in tone or plot but my heart was happy and I have a few new 5 star favorites…

Love in the Time Of Serial Killers by Alicia Thompson – ☆☆Stars☆☆ Overall enjoyable if you can get past the pessimist female lead with a knack for dropping serial killer pop culture trivia more than preferred. The grumpy-sunshine trope is done well, it’ll just come down to how you mesh with Pheobe’s personality, I have a full review here

Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey – ☆☆4 Stars☆☆ a PERFECT add-on to your spooky TBR’s, this was an audiobook listen and I’m of the mind that this is the format to take in this story. I still hear the female lead Vera, bone-chilling and cold are the words that come to mind. The house this story takes place in holds many secrets which the author did a fantastic job of conveying from the very first page. It’s disturbing, the last book that made me feel like this is just wrong! is when I read My Dark Vanessa. The relationship between Vera and her mother is just about as toxic as they come, no love lost between the two. This one is told in dual timelines with Vera recounting childhood interactions with her parents & present time. 

Shutter by Ramona Emerson ☆☆Stars☆☆ sadly I can’t remember too much of this one other than it was slow and the narrator just wasn’t it. I wanted to love it since any stories that feature anything in the realm of forensics almost always piques my interest, but also it’s set in New Mexico’s Navajo Nation. The MC is a forensics photographer who also happens to see ghosts and they almost always need/want her to listen or help in order for their souls to rest in peace. She’s met with one ghost who is very aggressive and won’t be ignored, she wants her murder solved or else. At times gruesome with depictions of bodies that met violent ends, the supernatural aspects were well done. However, I didn’t love that every single one of our MC’s superiors was a disgusting pig who treated her terribly. She doesn’t get much of a reprieve and the ending happened at lightning speed. Not sure if I would try this author again, may just not be for me. 

Spy X Family by Tatsuya Endo – ☆☆5 Stars☆☆ My first MANGA! and I can’t stop singing its praises! Agent Twilight and the family he puts together for the sake of his mission are EVERYTHING! there were so many cute moments with Anya who is his telepathic fake child and bad ass scenes with Yor, his assassin fake wife. I just found out about the first season on Hulu and properly added it to my queue. 

 Jade War by Fonda Lee – ☆☆5 Stars☆☆ I hadn’t stopped thinking of the Green Bones since reading 𝗝𝗮𝗱𝗲 𝗖𝗶𝘁𝘆 last December, their fates and fortune always at the back of my mind. This book is THICK! and not a single page was unecessary, not a single stone was left unturned bookworms! I enjoyed highlighting and annotating her pages with predictions and WTF moments. The stakes are even higher. The Weatherman has upped their strategic skills and our Pillar has fully stepped into his role. The war on the streets for Jade has now seeped into foreign countries…as in we’ve gone INTERNATIONAL!!! *please use the maps Fonda Lee has gifted us* good lawd, I almost turned my workspace into a war room to keep track of all the alliances and enemies closing ranks. EPIC and truly unforgettable, I think I’m ready for Jade Legacy

Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher – ☆☆5 Stars☆☆ I am guilty of picking up this book solely to sate the curiosity of meeting the wild chicken mentioned by every reviewer who’s read this book. Mystery solved and I too couldn’t get enough of said chicken or Bonedog! Every single character in this book brought me pure satisfaction and joy to meet on the page. If you’re a lover of quests, animal companions, found families, and the take down of abusive men then this is the book for you. Marra is the third born Princess who was sent away to a convent while her sisters were married off to a Prince for political alliances. A prince who is abusive and quietly manhandles them until the shy and introverted Marra spots traces of his abuse. She seeks out a wise old gravewitch with hopes of being given the way the kill the Prince. On her quest she’s soon joined by a reluctant and funny God Mother, a handsome loyal knight, a loving bone dog and a sassy chicken. This a genre bending (a lil bit of fantasy/horror), character driven, atmospheric and just all around fun time! I’ve already reserved a copy of T.Kingfisher’s What Moves the Dead on Libby

After Hours on Milagro Street by Angelina M. Lopez – ☆☆ 5 Stars☆☆ I really enjoyed this story and will be on the lookout for more from this author. This is  a Latine story with a plus size Mexican American female lead who goes back home to Kansas in hopes of taking over the bar owned by her grandmother. Alejandra or “Alex” has acquired some social media fame as a trendy bartender in the bigger cities and is hoping to bring some of her style to the family bar. What she wasn’t expecting was to be met with a matriarch who isn’t ready to be told what to do with her business and in fact is asking that they prove why they make the best choice to sell to. It is a romance so what you can expect is the grumpy sunshine trope paired with close proximity and oh was it steamy AF! check out my full review here


 

Why this movie didn’t get the massive Netflix marketing that some others received is beyond me! I LOVED it so much that I made it my second (the first goes to Always Be My Maybe) favorite feel good flick. This is a rom-com that is family centered and filled with many laugh out loud moments. There’s also great commentary on what makes someone successful in life and whether that factors into your partner in marriage. Soon after I discovered the series Indian Matchmaking on Netflix and I’m currently still watching, top tier! 


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Spoiler Free Review: After Hours on Milagro Street by Angelina M. Lopez

Title: After Hours on Milagro Street

Author: Angelina M. Lopez

Pub. Date: July 26th 2022

Genre: Romance/Latinx

Format: eARC

Publisher: Carina Trade

Pages: 400

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☆☆ARC provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review☆☆╮

Characters: 10/10   Atmosphere: 10/10  Writing Style: 10/10  Plot: 8/10  Intrigue: 8/10  Logic/Relationships: 10/10  Enjoyment: 10/10

Rating: 66/9.4 =  ☆☆ 5 Stars☆☆╮

Rating system created by The Book Roast 

*•.¸♡ 𝐘𝐨𝐮 𝐝𝐨𝐧’𝐭 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐛𝐞 𝐚𝐥𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐲𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐞. 𝐋𝐞𝐭 𝐦𝐞 𝐭𝐚𝐤𝐞 𝐜𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮. 𝐖𝐞’𝐥𝐥 𝐟𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐡𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐭𝐨𝐠𝐞𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫. ♡¸.•*

This book kept me up last night as I was determined to finish it and those final few lines gave me goosebumps!! After Hours on Milagros Street is a romance with mystery, paranormal, and historical fiction aspects sprinkled throughout. I love my romance to be complex and the story line to have some depth, this was just that. We meet Alex Torres as she makes her appearance back in her hometown of Kansas. She’s an Alpha plus size Mexican-American female who has made a name for herself as an in demand bartender. Alex has been summoned by her sisters with hopes of convincing their matriarch of a grandmother to sell them her bar so that she may retire comfortably. The problem is that many in the Torres clan view her as a bit louder than the rest of them and a bit of a loose canon. For Alex, her image is something she plays up for the white people she bartends for. “The world expected an angry black woman, and Alex had let it pay her rent” She plans to use what she’s learned as well as her social media presence to put Kansas/Milagro Street back on the map. The town that for many years has been home to Mexican-American working families is struggling to keep the lights on. Jeremiah Post is renting a room at the bar, he is a white college professor whose own backstory is a mystery to all and he’d rather keep it that way. He loves the Torres clan, grandmother Loretta treats him like one of her own and the many aunts, uncles, and cousins who congregate at the bar daily see him as family too. Alex & Jeremiah’s first encounter is 10/10 spicy and hot. Alex knows exactly what she wants and isn’t afraid to go for it, she absolutely DOES get consent even as she’s going through the motions. I LOVED IT!

Full transparency, it took me a few days to finish this book but I didn’t see it as a negative. The pace is a bit slower than most romance books because of the historical fiction/mystery aspects but the latter half really picks up the pace. I appreciated the character development we see with Alex who goes from wanting to change everything about the bar to wanting to preserve some of what makes it feel like home to many of Freedom’s residents. Also, Jeremiah’s work as an ally helping preserve the Mexican-American immigrant history of the town and the fact that Alex makes sure that he knows she’s not down with the white savior roles perpetuated by many. Jeremiah’s respectful stance in making sure that he remains an ally in the background, his respect towards her family and the towns roots make him a new fave! This book has a whole lot of heart and the characters quickly come to life including our older generations. Last but not least, the supernatural aspects the author introduced to highlight the racism and bigotry surrounding Mexican-Americans bumped this book to a five star read for me. Consider reading if you enjoy romance wrapped in a bit of a mystery, found families that just so happen to be LARGE families, and angry ghosts.

𝗧ropes: close proximity, opposites attract, hate-to-love, grumpy sunshine

Content Warnings: mention of alcoholism, racism, bigotry, microagressions


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Spoiler Free Review: The Romance Recipe by Ruby Barrett

Title: The Romance Recipe

Author: Ruby Barrett

Pub. Date: July 12th 2022

Genre: Contemporary Romance/Queer

Format: eARC

Publisher: Carina Adores

Pages: 304

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☆☆ARC provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review☆☆╮

Characters: 6/10   Atmosphere: 10/10  Writing Style: 5/10  Plot: 5/10  Intrigue: 0/10  Logic/Relationships: 5/10  Enjoyment: 5/10

Rating: 36/5.1 =  ☆☆ 3 Stars☆☆╮

Rating system created by The Book Roast 

Amy Chambers is a restaurant owner, micro-manager, control freak who is having a tough time keeping the doors open. Employing a predominantly queer staff, Amy really cares about creating a space for them where they feel safe and can make a decent living with benefits. She’s just not drawing in a big enough crowd to pay the overhead costs or rent. She offers the Chef position to Sophie Brunet, a former reality-tv show finalist who can hopefully reignite interest in her restaurant Amy and May. Sophie grump in the kitchen/sunshine in the streets, took thirty years to figure out she was queer” she doesn’t really want to post every single dish she cooks on instagram for the likes. Sophie just wants to cook and explore new dishes, she’s a real chemist in the kitchen. Her new attraction to Amy aka her Boss proves challenging when an opportunity for a tv show that could put the restaurant back on the map comes around. First there’s the issue of whether Sophie even cares to go back on tv with a hobby that brings her a lot of comfort and joy in private. Then there’s the fact that she has just left one relationship to better understand her bisexuality all while managing her career. If you love a foodie romance, this one gives you plenty of time in the kitchen with recipe experimentation! 

╰☆☆ 𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐲 𝐬𝐚𝐲 𝐨𝐧𝐜𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐫𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐦𝐨𝐧𝐞𝐭𝐢𝐳𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐡𝐨𝐛𝐛𝐲 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐧𝐞𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐟𝐢𝐧𝐝 𝐚 𝐧𝐞𝐰 𝐡𝐨𝐛𝐛𝐲. 𝐅𝐨𝐫 𝐬𝐨 𝐥𝐨𝐧𝐠 𝐜𝐨𝐨𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐚 𝐩𝐚𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧, 𝐦𝐚𝐲𝐛𝐞 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐪𝐮𝐢𝐭𝐞 𝐚 𝐡𝐨𝐛𝐛𝐲, 𝐛𝐮𝐭 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐈 𝐝𝐢𝐝 𝐛𝐞𝐜𝐚𝐮𝐬𝐞 𝐈 𝐥𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐝 𝐢𝐭. 𝐍𝐨𝐰 𝐈 𝐠𝐞𝐭 𝐩𝐚𝐢𝐝 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐦𝐲 𝐩𝐚𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐬𝐮𝐝𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐥𝐲 𝐈’𝐦 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐠𝐨𝐨𝐝 𝐚𝐭 𝐢𝐭 𝐚𝐧𝐲𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐞. ☆☆

There’s a lot to love in this queer book about two lesbian/bisexual chefs, especially if you love a good foodie romance. I love a well fleshed out dual POV, however I had a hard time distinguishing between Amy and Sophie’s chapters. Although their back stories are clearly defined up-front, their voices sounded very much the same. I felt their romance was rushed especially for Sophie who had just left one long term relationship and was feeling comfortable finally looking at girls with open interest. I appreciated Amy expressing that Sophie should give herself time to date whomever and not feel the need to settle down so quickly. This however came across to Sophie as if Amy was trying to make decisions for her and I guess I could see both sides of that argument. Even with these concerns being vocalized between the two, I felt that the pacing was off and the ending felt rushed. I enjoyed the reality tv show aspects/celebrity chef however just when this takes off at the end, it cuts off and we don’t really get to see that aspect develop. It is expressed in the book that tv ultimately isn’t where Sophie’s heart is at but the majority of the plot is also banking on this show being a success. It would’ve been nice to see more of that since ultimately it was Amy who chose to pursue the tv opportunity. As for the smut/steam, that is where this book really gets all the brownie points. Those sex scenes were give and take and just all around sexy! It gets all the chili 🌶 for simply being all one could hope for, teasing and all! *chefs kiss* 


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Spoiler Free Review: The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston

Title: The Dead Romantics

Author: Ashley Poston

Pub. Date: June 28th 2022

Genre: Contemporary Romance/Paranormal

Format: eARC

Publisher: Berkley

Pages: 368

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☆☆ARC provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review☆☆╮

Characters: 10/10   Atmosphere: 10/10  Writing Style: 10/10  Plot: 8/10  Intrigue: 8/10  Logic/Relationships: 10/10  Enjoyment: 10/10

Rating: 68/9.7 =  ☆☆ 5 Stars☆☆╮

Rating system created by The Book Roast 

★彡 𝐄𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐬𝐚𝐢𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐧 𝐚 𝐃𝐚𝐲 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐛𝐨𝐫𝐧, 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐲 𝐰𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐚𝐥𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐲 𝐰𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐟𝐮𝐧𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐥 𝐜𝐥𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐬. 𝐖𝐞 𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐝𝐞𝐚𝐭𝐡 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐝 𝐨𝐟 𝐜𝐞𝐥𝐞𝐛𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐦𝐨𝐬𝐭 𝐩𝐞𝐨𝐩𝐥𝐞 𝐨𝐧𝐥𝐲 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫 𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐞𝐫𝐯𝐞𝐝 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐥𝐢𝐟𝐞. 彡★

Florence Day is a ghostwriter for a prolific romance writer who happens to be on a deadline. After a very rough break-up, Florence can’t find it in her to write about love, she no longer believes in it. She’s on her way to meet her new editor and pitch him the idea for a book outside of the romance genre. She wasn’t anticipating him being an incredibly sexy “mountain of a man” or that he would deny her pitch at another book. The pressure is on and when Florence gets a call from her mother to come home because her dad has just passed…she has to return down south to a town that ran her off ten years ago. Florence sees ghosts, more specifically she sees those that need help crossing over. Her family runs the towns funeral parlor and the only other person who shared her gift was her dad. Ten years ago she helped solve the murder of a boy with the help of his ghost and that made headlines. Now back in town, she answers the funeral parlors doorbell only to find the ghost of her very handsome editor and his unfinished business. The one to make her question her new stance on love.

THIS BOOK!!! Yes, I’m a sucker for father/daughter stories but I bawled my eyes out while smiling and laughing all at the same time. Having lost my own dad, whenever I find one in the pages of a book with as much character and life as my own had…it’s a 5 star read. Although the reason for which Florence returns to her hometown is sad, it’s also treated as a celebration of life. Her family after all is in the business of death and preparing send offs, her father made sure that his is befitting that of his life. The whole family is awesome and supportive, quirky and honest. They have their issues like every family but they hash it out. The neighbors/town come to life and you get all the southern charm both good & bad. The romance was sweet, slow burn and hopeful! it doesn’t get better than a love interest who also loves reading romance novels and restores faith in love. Last but not least there’s a funeral parlor setting, Adams Family vibes, and queer siblings who fight and make up that made this a fun read with tons of personality! 🖤

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Spoiler Free Review: Set On You by Amy Lea

Title: Set On You

Author: Amy Lea

Pub. Date: May 10th 2022

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Format: eARC

Publisher: Berkley Books

Pages: 384 pages

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🖤ARC provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review🖤

Fitstagrammer Crystal Chen has built her platform by breaking gym stereotypes and throwing positivity at the haters who can’t help but troll her posts. She’s just experienced a break-up that’s left her feeling like setting some boundaries. Tired of having surface level flings and craving a deeper connection, Crystal is on high alert for any guy with red flags. To top it off she finds herself in squat wars with the new guy at the gym who she’s dubbed The Squat Rack Thief. This guy doesn’t follow any of the gyms unspoken rules leaving Crystal both appalled and determined to beat him to the squat rack each night. Soon a tit-for-tat type relationship develops and with it, a whole dose of sexual chemistry. 

Hopefully Dear Reader, you haven’t read the Goodreads synopsis for this book since I feel it gives away a bit too much and I’m glad I went in with very minimal info. For starters, we don’t get Squat Rack Thief’s name right away and I felt this added a fun mystery and led to a surprising reveal. These characters face a couple of challenges before their romance takes off but nothing they couldn’t get through, it was more of a battle of wills playing out. Crystal isn’t trying to become anyone’s rebound (again) and she’s also fiercely and proudly protective of her followers. She dedicates her time to working privately with clients and posting motivational videos/captions that we get to read in the book. We also get to see both the positive & negative comments she gets daily and how she handles having a large platform as a plus size Chinese American Fitstagrammer. Squat Rack Thief is described as looking like Chris Evans and having killer abs but he also deals with some stereotypes and Crystal brings those to the surface. 

All images originate from Pinterest

CW (some of which are mentioned in the author’s note): Cheating, Cancer, death of a loved one mentioned, cyberbullying, fatphobia, references to racism, fitness/diet culture

At its core this book carries such a strong message on what exactly “body positivity” really is on an individual basis and what confidence and self-worth really looks like on the daily. Any book that can make me self reflect is one I’ll recommend and this is one I feel did that and more. Personally, my fitness journey like crystals stemmed from wanting to find my way back to a more confident ME. It’s not tied to a number on the scale but rather a feeling of happiness and comfort in my own skin. There’s also the fact that Crystal doesn’t have a traditional job or career, she has built a strong following and with it acquired some endorsements. Her loving traditional self-made father struggles with her choices and that too was interesting to see play out. All in all, we have a independent woman who has worked hard to achieve success, confidence and up her self worth but that doesn’t mean every day is a good day.

“I don’t think confidence and self-worth is something you magically attain. And you don’t simply hold onto it forever like a tangible object. It’s fluid. You can be confident in every aspect except one. Or something could happen and all your confidence can be shattered in an instant.”

The journey Crystal is on is hella relatable down to setting healthy boundaries with the male love interest. Yes there were moments where they bent the rules & gave into their cravings but there was also a clear line of communication. I really would’ve loved for this to have been multiple POV cause I was dying to know what Squat Rack Thief was thinking. Especially during the last 15% where that communication they maintained all throughout was put on pause. Otherwise this was a laugh-out-loud funny, sexy, empowering, and at times five chili peppers steamy read. There’s a strong cast of supporting characters made up of family members and friends, each of them well fleshed out with tons of personality. Something to look forward to? possibly? well, Crystal’s sister is introduced as a Bookstagrammer/Nurse and I’m more than READY for her story! One can hope amiright?!? Set on You by Amy Lea hits shelves May 10th!

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Spoiler Free Review: Dating Dr. Dil by Nisha Sharma

Title: Dating Dr. Dil

Author: Nisha Sharma

Pub. Date: March 15th 2022

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Format: eARC

Publisher: Avon 

Pages: 352

 

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☆☆ARC provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review☆☆╮

Characters: 10/10   Atmosphere: 7/10  Writing Style: 10/10  Plot: 8/10  Intrigue: 0/10  Logic/Relationships: 8/10  Enjoyment: 10/10

Rating: 53/7.5 =  ☆☆ 4 Stars☆☆╮

Rating system created by The Book Roast 

*•.¸♡ 𝘠𝘰𝘶 𝘮𝘢𝘺 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘬 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘪𝘴 𝘢𝘯 𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘶𝘴𝘪𝘰𝘯, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘪𝘵’𝘴 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘭. 𝘐 𝘴𝘢𝘸 𝘪𝘵 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘮𝘺 𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘴 𝘴𝘭𝘰𝘸 𝘥𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦𝘥 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘬𝘪𝘵𝘤𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘰𝘯 𝘚𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘢𝘺 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘴. 𝘓𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘵𝘶𝘱𝘪𝘥 𝘤𝘢𝘳 𝘮𝘺 𝘧𝘢𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘮𝘺 𝘮𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘐 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘬𝘦𝘦𝘱 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘩𝘦𝘥 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘢𝘶𝘴𝘦 𝘩𝘦 𝘨𝘦𝘵𝘴 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘴𝘢𝘥 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘦𝘦𝘴 𝘪𝘵. 𝘐𝘵’𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘦𝘤𝘩𝘰𝘦𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘭𝘢𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘐 𝘳𝘦𝘮𝘦𝘮𝘣𝘦𝘳 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘺 𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦 𝘐 𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘦 𝘥𝘰𝘸𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘪𝘳𝘴 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘴𝘦 𝘮𝘺 𝘮𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘧𝘢𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘣𝘶𝘪𝘭𝘵 𝘵𝘰𝘨𝘦𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳.” ♡¸.•*

 Kareena Mann dreams of having a love marriage like her parents had but she’s considered to be a difficult catch for having what some consider to be idealistic views on love. Her interests mainly lie in restoring her moms classic car, remodeling her childhood home, reading romance novels and swiping right on dating apps. When her dad announces he’s selling their home, Kareena makes a last minute ditch effort/deal with him. If she gets engaged within four months he will gift her the house she grew up in.  Things get complicated when she has a very public argument with beloved Dr. Prem Dil on national TV. Neither believes they can possibly have anything in common because of their opposing views on love but quickly see that there is one thing they can do for one another that is sort of mutually beneficial. While Kareena is trying to buy her childhood home, Prem is trying to open up a medical practice to help the South Asian community. Both need money and are of the age where their families are pushing for marriage. What you can expect: Fake dating/Enemies-to-lovers trope, funny meddlesome families, dating scene highs/lows, great sex scenes, and yea some annoying nicknames 🤷🏻‍♀️😂

Too often I pick up a “rom-com” paperback thinking of all the classic movies that made me fall in love with them in the first place like The Proposal and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. This doesn’t often lead to the discovery of a new favorite because they rarely ever have that perfect balance of romance + comedy. I requested the eGalley of Dating Dr. Dil on Netgalley when I heard the male love interest was a Cardiologist who doesn’t believe in love or rather falling in love cause doesn’t that make for an interesting set-up? Why Yes! yes it totally does! I don’t remember the last time I had so much fun reading a book and it honestly got me out of a slump. The Auntie network made up of Kareena’s well meaning aunties alone had me giggling and SMH into the night. We get to know both their families through Whatsapp messages and If like myself you love a big family meddling in love affairs then this is a MUST read! 

The topic of arranged marriages vs. love marriages was explored in a positive light with instances where both have worked out in a successful pairing. Although the deal Kareena and Prem decide on would get them each what they’re looking for, I appreciated the emphasis on how Kareena would be viewed differently just for being a woman than Prem. A fake dating arrangement that can both help and harm Kareena in her dating life post situationship. I LOVED how Kareena did NOT stop dating just because of this arrangement, she stayed true to her character wanting to find true love. We do get to see her go on some of these dates which were frankly VERY close to what is actually out there in the dating pool *nightmares for days* but also added plenty of comedic moments. What I wasn’t expecting was for the spice to be at peak levels but Nisha Sharma delivered 👏🏽🙌🏽 I’ve seen many low reviews given simply because of the nickname Prem gives his manhood but I was not bothered at all by that and it didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the book.  I do believe there are more stories to be told since we do get introduced to Prem’s BFFs who are fellow single Desi boys. Kareena has some single friends as well and I would absolutely read the next book in this series…as long as we get more from the Aunties network 🙌🏽


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