The Night Before by Wendy Walker – A 5/5 Star Review!

Laura Lockner is misunderstood and difficult. She has been hard to love since being a little girl with “fists for hands”. Her sister Rosie’s sweet nature has been the perfect force to balance out Laura’s harsh personality. The two sisters along with their childhood friends Joe and Gabe have seen each other through horrific events in their childhood which built their friendship. Adulthood took Laura out from their hometown but now that she is back, can they remain a solid team as the past re-emerges?

I had read Emma in the Night in the past, also by Wendy Walker (see review here ).  I had high expectations for this book and it was nothing short of marvelous.  Everyone knows that there are lots of great books. But only rarely does a reader come across a brilliant masterpiece like Wendy Walker’s The Night Before that simply takes your breath away. There were multiple points where I had to pause, put the book down for a second, and take a moment to process the latest revealing truth. It is an intricate and delicate puzzle. Mind-blowing, fun, and a must-read for all fans of psychological thrillers.

For those who may be triggered or offended, there was violence, murder, adultery, divorce, foul language, and kidnapping.

Please note: an electronic ARC was generously provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review (thank you!).

A Lady’s Past by A. S. Fenichel – A 5/5 Star Review!

Another great book by A. S. Fenichel! One of my all-time favorite authors! A Lady’s Past is a fast-paced regency romance that is an exciting adventure. It is the fourth book in the Everton Domestic Society series but can easily be read as a standalone. However, if you have read the other books in the series (which I recommend all of them, see my reviews  first  ,  secondthird  ) it is a joy to spend more time with the previous characters. Lady Honoria and a beloved uncle have a stronger presence in this book which make it so much more fun.

Jacques and Diana’s story becomes increasingly difficult the more time they spend together, yet they can’t seem to stay away. Jacques was recently betrayed by a romantic partner yet finds the ability to trust Diana who clearly has secrets. Diana is being hunted by French spies for her father’s brilliant work. Jacques also recently escaped France, and with the good help of his friends, was able to help his family escape as well. Diana doesn’t know if she can trust Jacques, the Frenchman. Jacques doesn’t know if he can trust Diana because she is so evasive. The friction is so well defined in the plot that it leaves the reader begging for them to finally fall for each other.

I highly recommend this book for adult reader fans of regency romances with a kick of adventure. I would advise caution to readers who may be triggered or offended by: foul language, violence, kidnapping, murder, and sexually explicit scenarios.

Please note: an electronic Advanced Reader Copy of this book was generously provided by the publisher via NetGalley (thank you!).

One Day in December by Josie Silver – a 5/5 Star Review!

It was love at first sight but life got in the way. One glimpse and their lives were forever changed. This story spans almost ten years and dangles the hope of a Happily Ever After in front of the reader and sneaks in pain, grief, and other unexpected turns that life takes. It’s a winding track with many hurdles but it makes the story authentic and the ending bliss. I would highly recommend for adult romance fans, especially around the holidays.

For those who may be triggered or offended: there was foul language, alcohol use, grief, death, pregnancy struggles, and mild sexually suggestive scenarios. 

Please note: an electronic copy of this book was provided for free by my local library via OverDrive. Please support your local libraries! 🙂

A Wedding in December by Sarah Morgan – A 5/5 Star Review!

Another great romance novel from Sarah Morgan! Having read her From Manhattan With Love series and a couple of standalones (see reviews: Sleepless in Manhattan (From Manhattan With Love #1)  , Sunset In Central Park (From Manhattan With Love #2)  , Miracle On 5th Avenue (From Manhattan With Love #3)  , New York, Actually (From Manhattan With Love #4)  , Holiday in the Hamptons (From Manhattan with Love #5)  , Moonlight Over Manhattan (From Manhattan With Love #6)  , A New York Christmas Story  , How To Keep A Secret  , The Christmas Sisters  , One Summer in Paris ), I expected romance, humor, and character building.  I was not disappointed! Sarah Morgan has crafted building hope from trauma in her characters.  She also shows that bumps will happen in life but turning to those you love in those hard times help you get through.

This is not a simple sappy Christmas romance.  There is grit, trauma, misunderstanding, but there is also hope, love, and strength.  Rosie has moved an ocean away from her loved ones leaving her sometimes overprotective family behind.  She has found how to overcome her lifelong battle with asthma as well as how to stand on her own two feet for once.  She has also found love.  With her soon to be mother-in-law at the helm, she finds herself engaged with a Christmas wedding! Her family has to scramble to get to America and get through the blizzard to get to the wedding but what could possibly go wrong?

Everything.  Of course.

I highly recommend this romance to those getting ready and excited for the holiday season! It has a beautifully depicted backdrop of snowy mountains and treehouses at a resort I would absolutely love to go to for a vacation.  I would also recommend this novel for adults as there is mild foul language and sexually explicit material.

This is a standalone novel but I would love if further novels developed from this novel.  I would also recommend her other standalones as well as her From Manhattan with Love series!

Please note: an electronic version of the Advanced Reader Copy of this novel was generously provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review (Thank you Harlequin!).

The Duke Is But A Dream by Anna Bennett (Debutante Diaries #2)- A 5/5 Star Review!

Anna Bennett is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.  I absolutely loved the previous book in this series, First Earl I See Tonight (see review here ) and had similar feelings for this book.  The Duke Is But A Dream also had adventure, humor, and (of course) romance.  This time it focuses on the headstrong and bold Lily Hartley’s love adventure following memory loss from a bar brawl injury.  This injury brings her and Nash, the Duke of Stonebridge, together in a unique situation that forces them to show their true character.  Even if Lily can’t remember her character, or her own name for that matter.  It then forces the question: Can you truly love someone if you don’t even know who you are?

This is not a simple romance.  All characters are dealing with heavy subjects that are not simply resolved by a true love’s first kiss (sorry Disney, I still love you).  Grief is an ongoing struggle that cannot truly be resolved, just like the void cannot truly ever be filled in reality.  However, this novel does portray how to cope with the grief in healthy ways and that trying to avoid it just makes you stuck and does not honor their memory well.  Abandonment is another issue that is dealt with as there does not seem to be anyone looking for Lily as she is missing and going by the name Caroline (as she does not remember her own name).  Don’t worry, reader, it was a misunderstanding that has a happy ending.

Additionally, this book briefly catches us up with the characters from the previous book in the series, Sophie, Gray, and her sister Fiona.  However, this book could be read as a standalone as it does not rely heavily on previous events.  Probably because Lily does not have any memory of previous events.  I did like the new characters that were introduced and I hope there are more books in the series.  I would love to see a story about Lily and Fiona’s close friend and colleague, Sophie.  I would also love to see a story about Nash’s sister, the bubbly and lovely Delilah.

I would absolutely recommend this book for fans of regency romance novels that have to do with brooding dukes and concerns about the reactions of the ton.  I would also recommend this book for adults as there are graphically sexual scenarios, mild foul language, violence, and alcohol use.

Please note: An electronic Advanced Readers Copy of this book was generously provided by the publisher via NetGalley for free in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you! 

I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella – A 5/5 Star Review!

Everything is not going perfectly for Fixie Farr. Which is not ok. Fixie got her nickname from her inability to leave things be, she has to fix them. Blindsided by her father’s death, she is the only one of her siblings that appears to want things to be as her father would want them in the family-owned store. She runs the shop with her mom, who is going on her first long-term holiday in a long time. When her mom leaves, her siblings and other family members try to step in and take over with their dominant ideas which clash with Fixie wanting things to stay as her father would want it. On top of that her former flame comes back into the picture, she rescues a stranger’s laptop, and she briefly gets back in touch with her old ice skating queen self. With everything falling apart, can she fix it in time for her mother’s return?

Another favorite book by Sophie Kinsella! I have read many of her standalones under this surname and under her actual name: Madeleine Wickham ( see reviews: Surprise Me , My (Not So) Perfect Life). All of them are fun romantic adventures and this one just may be the most fun yet deep one. I think it is the most perfect romantic comedy. It has highs and lows, character building amongst all characters, deceptive villains, and family bonding.

The characters are so clearly identifiable with their own nuances that I felt like I really knew them. And they had personalities of people that I have met in my life! They are so finely tuned from beginning to end that it really becomes a masterpiece.

There was an undertone of grief and how it presents itself differently for every person. Furthermore, it depicts how simply pretending that the void is not there does not allow for healing. I also enjoyed how pride and appearances are thin veils of insecurity that can easily be torn-particularly by showboating and by social media.

True love does not mean fixing everything. True love does not just mean between lovers, it involves family too. Furthermore, a family is not just blood and sometimes we don’t even truly know those closest to us.

There were misunderstandings on many levels and so many characters that I rooted for. I thought the book had reached its conclusion and then I realized I was only about 2/3 of the way through! Once I had read further then I realized that the focus of the book, although a romance, is not on romantic love but on love in its many forms. This story further proves that love isn’t just the romance between lovers. This love story encompasses romantic love, familial love, and self-love.

In conclusion: I laughed, I cried, I snickered, I felt secondhand embarrassment, and I felt so proud of Fixie and her family, not just those related to her by blood. I absolutely loved this book.

I would recommend this book for adult readers who love romances, comedies, romantic comedies, and fiction in general. On the other hand, I would not recommend this book for readers who may be triggered or offended by the following: grief, parental death, sibling death, stealing, foul language, alcohol use, and/or sexually suggestive scenarios.

Please note: an Advanced Reader Copy of this book was generously provided for free by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

One Summer in Paris by Sarah Morgan- a 5/5 Star Review!

As the old saying goes: “Secrets, secrets, are no fun. Secrets, secrets, hurt everyone”. But everyone has secrets, don’t they? Some secrets hurt more than others. Like Grace, whose husband decides to tell her his secret. That he’s cheating with a friend. Their daughter’s friend who is more than half their age. And he decides to tell her this at dinner for their 25th Anniversary.

Other secrets we keep so we don’t get hurt or judged by others. Like young Audrey, who is dyslexic and just trying to get through high school. But it is hard to do when she has an erratic and constantly drunk mother.

Both Grace and Audrey meet by chance while each are escaping from their respective chaos in Paris. Both had more in common than they could have possibly expected and develop a strong friendship where they teach each other what it means to be completely honest and to bring out the best in each other. I loved that this book explored friendship love, parental love, love lost, and romantic love all in one story based in the city of love.

This is yet another wonderful book by Sarah Morgan! It is an emotional roller coaster full of secrets: heartwarming yet tense, funny yet serious, hopeful yet grieving. The amount of character development among multiple characters was astounding. There was one character in particular that I absolutely had feelings of rage whenever they were involved in the plot but towards the end I found myself (begrudgingly) rooting for. It also is a great book that highlights the important benefits of traveling, particularly internationally, as well as the importance of a strong relationship with grandparents.

As someone who simply adores my grandmother, Mimi is my favorite character of the book. She is one of the main character’s grandmother who is sassy, independent, unconventional, and just plain fun! She also has a secret that she has been hiding for decades that is later revealed.

I have read many other books by Sarah Morgan:

but, out of all of them, this was the hardest. This was simply not a book that I could finish in one sitting. Hear me out, it does get easier to read as the plot develops but, for me it was hard because, both main characters also had complicated relationships with their respective mothers. In particular, they both had difficult and unstable childhoods due to their mothers’ addictions. I could relate to each of the main characters as this was something I had also experienced. This made reading the book difficult as it brought up a lot of things that I had spent a lot of time repressing. Which also made this book cathartic in that it helped me work through some of it rather than repressing it. (Ms. Morgan, you can bill me later for the therapy 😉 ).

Therefore, if you are one who has also had to deal with a difficult childhood with a parent battling addiction, this book may be heavier than expected. However, I do still recommend it as it can also be healing.

I would also recommend this book for readers who enjoy stories about friendship, traveling, and romance. I would recommend this book for adult readers as it does have foul language, heavy topics, and sexually suggestive scenarios.

Please note: an electronic ARC of this book was generously provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review (Thank you!).

A Lady’s Virtue (Everton Domestic Society #3) by A. S. Fenichel- A 5/5 Star Review!

Sylvia Dowder, surrounded by shame from a broken engagement, joined the Everton Domestic Society.  This way her twin sister could still have a chance at an engagement this season.  Dumped due to her social status being lower than her fiancée’s, she gets back at the ton by moonlighting as a secret gossip columnist.  This is a creative outlet for her sparky nature to put certain gossipers in their place by calling them out in this column.  Getting a job through the Everton Domestic Society working for Anthony Braighton, the new Earl of Grafton, makes it harder to keep her writing a secret.  What other secrets is she able to keep?

 

Not too surprisingly, I loved this book! I have been a fan of A. S. Fenichel’s writing since the beginning of the trilogy before this series, the Forever Brides series (see my reviews #1, #2, #3, and Bonus).  The first book of the Forever Brides series (Tainted Bride) was about Sophia Braighton, Anthony’s sister.  It was fun to read the interactions between Anthony and his sister Sophia.  It was also fun to see the dynamic differences between the American siblings, Anthony and Sophia, and the rest of the English characters.  I found it very interesting how the author contrasted the character reactions to the new social status of Sylvia’s former fiancée and Anthony Braighton.  What also enriched the plot was how Sylvia and Anthony’s frank personalities brought them together.

 

This book is the third in the Everton Domestic Society series (see my reviews on the earlier here  and here ) but it can be read as a standalone.  There are references to previous characters, however, there are brief background updates for each of them that does not halt the pacing of the story.  I was very excited when a familiar character came into the story and it felt like a party was building with the familiar guests showing up.

 

I would definitely recommend this book for romance readers, particularly those fond of Regency Romances.  The romance is slowly built over situations and time making it more authentic for me as a reader.  I would recommend this book for adults as there are some graphically sexual scenarios.

 

I would not recommend this book for readers who may be triggered or offended by: graphically sexual scenarios, public shaming, alcoholism, parental dominance, or mild foul language.

 

Please note: an electronic ARC of this book was generously provided through the Goodreads Giveaway program.

Adele by Leila Slimani- DNF at 15%-a 1/5 Star Review

DNF at 15%

This book is just not for me. I cannot relate to the main character and I found her to be self-centered with a complete disregard for others’ feelings or any consequences. So far it has only been told in Adele’s point-of-view but it is not an interesting one. She just goes from assessing who she can see herself having sex with on the train to being annoyed by her son’s general existence. It did not seem like the plot was going to be any more than a chronology of emotionless sexual partners.

I would not recommend this book for any reader but I would especially not recommend it for anyone who may be triggered or offended by: foul language, explicitly sexual scenarios, and infidelity.

Please note: an electronic ARC of this book was generously provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

She Lies in Wait (DCI Jonah Sheens #1) by Gytha Lodge – A 2/5 Star Review

One girl has to tag along embarrassingly with her older sister on a camping trip with her sister’s friends. One night of secrets. One death that will take 30 years to solve. One Detective who knows more than he lets on.

This book was kind of hard to fly through at times. There is a fine line between detailing the setting and overloading on details as filler. However, it could also be the case that the overwhelming amount of details was due to it being the author’s debut novel. It was mostly very heavy on the interactions and operations of the office.

Furthermore, there is a subplot on a newbie detective with an abusive stalker of an ex-boyfriend that forces her to spend the night in a hotel at one point. The main issue with this is: there doesn’t seem to be a point to it. Since this is the first book in a series, perhaps the author is setting up a villain for the next book. Or could it be that the author was trying to humanize the character? There is not a resolution to this issue and it makes the plot a bit sporadic.

Another reason why I did not care for this particular book is because of the alternating narratives. Authors like Liane Moriarty (see review ) can pull off weaving multiple storylines and distinct narratives into one cohesive plot. Unfortunately, this did not happen in She Lies in Wait. Mostly because it starts off solely as alternating narrators of DCI Jonah Sheens in the present and Aurora in the past with chapter separation. Then, the narration switches between a random assortment of characters with only Hanson as a fairly common one with her confusing subplot. Furthermore, some of the other detectives are not established well so sometimes it was confusing on who the narrator was even supposed to be and pretty much muddied the plot.

The final reason why I did not care for this book is because it was almost obvious who the killer was from the early chapters. I had hoped that it couldn’t possibly be that obvious and must be a red herring but I was disappointed.

And so I can’t say that I am eager for the next book in the series. I do give props to the author as it is very hard to get your debut novel published. I would imagine it is even harder if that book is the first in a series. But, for me, this book is not one that I would recommend.

The following things were found in my reading of the book that may be offensive or trigger some readers: violence, drug use, alcohol use, drug abuse, sexual assault, sexually suggestive scenarios, foul language, murder, stalking, and psychological abuse.

Please note: an electronic ARC of this book was generously provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.