Category Archives: cute romance

Flirting with Forever

flirting with foreverFlirting with Forever
by Molly Cannon
Published by Forever
387 pages
Genre: romance, chick lit 
3 / 5

 

Most of us remember our first love. We can’t help it; it’s as if that person was branded on our brains and in our hearts. Maybe some of us even wish we could reconnect with our first love. Maybe we wish we had the chance for a do-over.

Wedding planner Irene Cornwell may not spend much time wishing she could have another chance with her first love, Theo Jacobsen, nor would she admit it if she did. She’s busy establishing herself in a town that branded her a Black Widow due to her having married a much older man, of whom she is now his widow. She is active in charities, and there is the new business as a wedding planner.

Who has time to ponder life’s what-ifs?

Irene has to confront those, though, when Theo comes back home. He’s been long gone, first in the Army and then as a sort of itinerant pilot and handyman. He’s back because his brother – a client of Irene’s – is getting married.

Theo and Irene each have a different spin on what brought their romance to an end, and they have a lot of bad feelings toward each other. They also have some smoldering, HOT feelings toward each other.

Before you get too excited, no, there is not much hot headboard rockin’ here. There is some, and while it is lovely, it is not wildly graphic, nor is it prolific.

The point is the romance and how Irene and Theo have grown and changed.

This book is, quite simply, a fun, cute romance novel. You can’t help but like Irene and Theo, and you definitely will root for them. If nothing is terribly surprising, so be it.

Fun, cute, sweet. Sometimes that’s just what you want to read.

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Never Google Heartbreak

never google heartbraekNever Google Heartbreak
by Emma Garcia
Published by Bookoutre
265 pages
Genre: chick lit, romance 
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3.5 / 5

 

Chick Lit is one of those genres that has sub-genres, some of which are a bit of a head scratcher. Did you know that there is a wellspring of romance novels focused on the Amish?

I won’t be reading those.

Sometimes I think there ought to be a sub-genre devoted to Helen Fielding and Bridget Jones: the spunky, flighty, slightly immature British girl with a job she doesn’t really like trying to convince herself that she cares more about the cad than she truly does, all the while finding herself embroiled in madcap capers and avoiding the True Love right in front of her face.

Such is the case, anyway, with Never Google Heartbreak.

Vivienne lived with and was engaged to wealthy, handsome Rob for five years, during which he postponed (called off) their wedding twice. So of course she should not be surprised when he does it a third time, although she is.

This time, though, Viv packs up her stuff and decamps to a new flat, where she assumes she will live temporarily while waiting for Rob to come to his senses. Imagine her surprise when things do not go as she planned.

Fortunately, she has a couple of stalwart besties, including Max, an artist whose outwardly unkempt appearance belies a heart full of, at the very least, devotion to Viv.

As Vivienne scampers about town, desperate to reclaim Rob, she hears from more than one character, more than one time, that Rob was a bit of an arse. In fact, we see so many people tell Viv this that we start to question her judgment. The Rob we meet is not exactly Mr. Wonderful, which only compounds our confusion. Does Viv love him? Really love him? Or does she love the idea of him and the idea of the life she thought they’d have together?

While she traverses this achy breaky minefield, she also has to do battle on the professional front, as all good Brit Chick Lit heroines do. She lands herself in several escapades intended to make us laugh at her, if not mock her entirely, but when you know that their only purpose is to provide some sort of requisite comedic interlude, they tend to lose their punch.

There are a couple of romances here. Vivienne’s romantic journey will take her someplace she doesn’t expect, and her reactions to it are what give this book its emotional core. Unlike some of the more contrived scenes intended to belittle her, those in which she realizes what love truly should feel like are sweet. She doesn’t need to be embarrassed in order to have emotional growth.

For all of its predictability, this is a cute, adorable book, and Viv is almost impossible not to like. Even when you want to knock some sense into her.

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Turn Up the Heat (A Pine Mountain Novel)

turn up the heatTurn Up the Heat
by Kimberly Kincaid
Published by Kensington
Genre: chick lit, romance 
352 pages
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3 / 5

 

Poor Bellamy Blake.

First her news anchor boyfriend dumps her when he accepts a job in San Diego while planning to leave her behind in Philadelphia, and then her Miata breaks down on a snowy drive to a spa vacation.

Lucky Bellamy Blake.

That broken Miata lands her in the repair shop – and arms – Hottie McHot Hot car repair whiz Shane Griffin.

Let’s just say that you know pretty much everything there is to know. Our lovebirds will fight their attraction for each other, come together, get torn apart, and then … well, you know how it will end.

The thing is, this is a fun read, even for all of its predictability. Bellamy is likable. She’s feisty and insecure and lovable. She recognizes Shane for more than he sees in himself, which makes me like her even more. For his part, Shane wants Bellamy to be who she wants to be and not whom others peg her as, which makes him pretty darn awesome too.

Then there is the headboard rockin’. While not terribly explicit, those scenes are nicely written, and they will make you appreciate Shane even more. These two can melt the snow, let’s just say.

What you have here is a Cute Romance with some Hot Headboard Rockin’. Enjoyable characters, fun story, good sexy times. You’ll like it.

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Evening Stars (Blackberry Island #3)

evening starsEvening Stars (Blackberry Island)
by Susan Mallery
Published by Harlequin MIRA
368 pages
Genre: chick lit; women’s fiction 
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4 / 5

 

I don’t know what it is about this book, but it made me cry.

Scratch that. I know exactly what it is about this book that made me cry: Nina Wentworth.

Her entire life has been centered around taking care of someone, whether her flakey mother, her self-centered sister, or her supportive boss. The roof needs replacing? Nina will wipe out her savings to pay for it. Her sister needs to go to college? Nina not only will pay for it, she also will make sure Averil gets off of Blackberry Island and pursue her dreams. Her boyfriend wants her to come with him to medical school?

Well …

Even then, though, Nina was taking care of someone. By sacrificing her love life, she was able to put Averil through college and keep a close eye on mother Bonnie’s questionable decisions.

The problem with being a caretaker is that you don’t know when – much less how – to quit the gig.

Now thirty, Nina has accepted her lot in life. She still lives with her mother (and her mother’s girlfriend), and she still assumes responsibility for all around her. She is not a martyr, though. It’s worse than that. Nina doesn’t believe she deserves anything else.

But within a few days, her dull, unsatisfactory life is thrown into a blender. First, she meets Kyle, a 26-year-old Air Force pilot who literally catches her off her feet. He’s come to find her, the woman who once was his sister’s babysitter. Kyle has nursed a crush on Nina for fourteen years, and he is determined to woo her. He makes his intentions quite clear; he’s in town for four months, and he’d enjoy nothing more than “connecting” with the babysitter.

And by “connect,” you know exactly what I mean.

At first resistant, Nina allows herself to be swept out of Bonnie’s home and into Kyle’s bed. And not a moment too soon, considering Averil has left her husband in California and come back home to Blackberry Island. With a dog.

Typical Averil, Nina thinks, accusing her sister of continuing to act in her own self-interests. The problem is that Averil isn’t quite sure what her self-interests are. Her husband accuses her of needing Nina’s advice and guidance, yet within five minutes of being in Nina’s company, the two sisters are bickering, reverting back to their childhoods. Averil thinks Nina is a control freak, whereas Nina thinks Averil refuses to take responsibility for her own decisions.

Then there is the biggest upheaval of all: Dylan, her high school boyfriend – the one who broke her heart when he left for college – is back, joining his father’s medical practice.

As Nina attempts to manage the various players in her drama, she receives no help from her mother or sister. Happy to assist with the sexy times is good old Kyle, who at least provides some pleasurable diversions. Nina can’t quite figure out what Dylan wants, though. He’s back, but is it just for his father? Or could it be for her, too?

I loved Nina. Yes, she’s obstinate and a bit of a know-it-all, and, yes, she’s too busy managing everyone else’s life to see that her own needs it just as much, but she’s so real. She worries about her tummy and her thighs, she tries to convince herself that she is content with her life, and she doesn’t want her younger, more vivacious sister to get too close to her friends lest they prefer Averil’s company to hers.

When Nina looks at her life and sees it for what it is – a woman who was forced at a young age to become the mother to both Bonnie and Averil – it is heartbreaking. As Averil observes, Nina is in a lose-lose situation. Averil and Bonnie rely on her to take care of things, yet when she does, they are never satisfied.

Meanwhile, Averil is stuck as well. She loves her husband, but something is missing from her life. The problem is that she can’t figure out what it is.

These two sisters – and their mother – have a way to go to sort themselves out, and thankfully Mallery takes us along. As much as I enjoyed Nina, though, I loathed Bonnie. She is nothing short of a terrible mother who uses the excuse that she had Nina at sixteen as a means of absolving her from adulthood and responsibility. Averil isn’t much better. She needs Nina’s interference as much as she resents it if for no other reason than when something goes wrong, Averil has someone to blame. Why her husband sticks with her is a mystery.

I enjoyed this book tremendously, largely because Mallery avoids turning Blackberry Island into a kitschy den of eccentricity. As flighty as Bonnie is, she’s also quite real. Everyone we meet is. As for the romances, they are fun more than passionate. There are some sexy times, but they are not explicit or wildly detailed at all. I’ve read more graphic headboard rockin’ in YA books.

Read, enjoy, and maybe shed a tear or two for Nina. She deserves someone on her side.

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Once in a Lifetime (Lucky Harbor)

OnceInALifetimeOnce in a Lifetime (Lucky Harbor)
by Jill Shalvis
Published by Grand Central Publishing
352 pages
Genre: contemporary romance; chick lit 
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4 / 5

This is the tenth book in Shalvis’s Lucky Harbor series … and the first of her novels that I have read.

Yeah, I know. I am late to the party.

I know I started another one of the Lucky Harbor books, but I never finished it. This one, though. I liked. I like a LOT.

When it comes to loss, Ben McDaniel has suffered his share. His parents exited his life when he was a kid, wife died five years ago in an auto accident, and he nearly lost his own while working in the Middle East. That close call scared him enough that he has returned home to Lucky Harbor to be near his friends. While peacefully enjoying an adult beverage at a local bar, he becomes the unintended victim of a drink being thrown.

The intended victim was the ex-boyfriend of the gorgeous – but troubled and troubling – Aubrey Wellington. She mumbles an apology and skedaddles out. While Ben’s losses may have been more severe, Aubrey has suffered her share as well. Her parents’ divorce included dividing Aubrey and her sister between them, and Aubrey’s relationship with her father has never recovered. Nor, for that matter, has her relationship with her sister.

Of course these two are attracted to each other, as all good “doesn’t work so well on paper” couples do.

Aubrey’s uncle hires Ben to renovate the bookstore she inherited, which means the two begin spending time together. As Ben realizes that there is more to Aubrey than the high school troublemaker so many continue to think of her as being, Aubrey realizes that her reputation was, for the most part, well earned. She embarks on an attempt to right her personal wrongs, something that fascinates Ben. What he doesn’t know is that he’s on her list too.

With no one supporting their burgeoning relationship, it’s left to Aubrey and Ben to determine on their own what they feel for each other. Yes, Aubrey’s neighboring business owners (two women whose stores previously featured in the Lucky Harbor series) give it a thumbs up, but otherwise, the town thinks Ben is insane for showing an interest in Aubrey.

This is one of those fun, romantic stories that you just need to enjoy reading every now and then. I loved Aubrey and Ben, two complicated, complex people who have to figure out who they are as individuals before they figure out who they are as a couple.

Aubrey seems to be a victim of town-fulfilled prophecy, thanks largely to her occasionally irascible temperament. She has grown up, though, maturing into a woman who takes responsibility for the mistakes she made. She also realizes that the only validation that matters is the one she bestows on herself.

Ben, on the other hand, is the town’s favorite son. He married a hometown girl, was a devoted husband, helped the impoverished get water, and now is helping (gasp!) Aubrey. The problem with all of this adoration is that when Ben decides to follow his heart and not Lucky Harbor’s, he risks alienating those who adore him.

There are some plot weaknesses, for all of the adorable-ness of the story. Aubrey and Hannah, Ben’s wife, have a history that is somewhat abandoned in terms of the Ben connection. We understand what Aubrey did, but we never quite know how Ben would react if he knew the whole, true story. All he receives are bits and parts. Another dangling thread is that with Aubrey’s father. Okay, I admit that I openly wept when she had her say with him, but we don’t know how it affects him.

Still, though, it’s a good story to read. And the sexy times? HOT. If I were Aubrey, I would tie myself to Ben’s bed and plead for no mercy. Theirs is an adult, sensual relationship between two people who know the vagaries of life. If Ben seems determined to enjoy the physical aspect and forego the emotional, we know enough about Aubrey to realize what he doesn’t: she will not patiently wait around for him to get out of his own way. That lesson does not come easily learned to him, just as there are lessons Aubrey must learn through pain and heartache. These nuances are what give the novel its emotional poignancy, its sense of being grown up.

Well, that and the sex. The sex is very grown up.

It might be time for me to revisit Ms. Shalvis. Clearly I need to discover more of Lucky Harbor because if the other nine books are as fun as this one, I’ve been missing out.

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What Goes on Tour — Plus a Q&A with Author Claire Boston

what goes on tourWhat Goes on Tour
by Claire Boston
Published by Momentum
Genre: romance, chick lit 
Thanks to the publisher for the preview
4 / 5

Chick lit gets a bad rap sometimes as being a genre promulgating unrealistic fantasies. This is true to some extent; it’s certainly true of bad chick lit.

Good, well-written chick lit, though, is fun. It’s delightful, entertaining, escapist fun that makes you feel happy, if not the giddiness that accompanies love and romance.

Fortunately, What Goes on Tour is good chick lit. This is a fun, sweet read, although you might need to keep a tissue handy because it will provoke a tear or two.

Libby Myles is an almost-successful writer of a book series geared toward kids. She has her loyal followers, but she is by no means J.K. Rowling. At least not yet.

While on a book tour in her native Australia, she appears on a chat show. Nervous, she is convinced that one false word will cost her sales. As she sits nervously in the green room, she sees one of her fellow guests, an American rock star named Kent Downer. They barely acknowledge each other, but when the lights go out in the studio, Libby realizes that Kent is having a panic attack. She holds his hand, and soothingly strokes his arm, grounding him against a surge of anxiety.

Kent is grateful, but before he can thank her, Libby leaves. When he returns to his hotel suite, he’s greeted by his ten-year-old niece Kate, who turns out to be a big fan of Libby’s books. He agrees to take her to Libby’s signing the next day, but she hardly recognizes him. Gone is Kent Downer, rock star; in front of her stands Adrian Hart, a nice uncle.

Once Libby gets past Kent being the stage persona Adrian adopts, she finds herself enjoying getting to know him and Kate. When Adrian needs a new nanny to watch Kate during his Australian tour, he hires Kate.

Of course you can see where this is headed, but don’t let that stop you from the read. There are considerable obstacles for Libby and Adrian, and each will need to confront a family history that has caused them more harm than either cares to acknowledge.

Claire Boston’s writing style is sincere and heartfelt. Libby and Adrian are impossible to dislike, although I will say that Kate is almost too spunky to be true. Libby and Adrian, though, are interesting and engaging. I enjoyed reading about Libby’s writing and publishing process, and Adrian’s rock star scenes are fun too. It’s easy to see how he seeks refuge in Kent Downer, just as Libby does with her writing. Pretending, whether it’s as a rock star or within a fictional tale, oftentimes is preferable to reality. Especially Libby and Adrian’s realities.

The romance moves slowly and cautiously, with Kate’s presence ever controlling what Adrian and Libby decide to do and how they decide to behave. There are other considerations – neither trusts love, and neither trusts the motivations of others. As Boston unfolds it, though, the romance is sweet and gentle, and exactly what you hope Libby and Adrian will experience together.

Good chick lit makes you care about the characters, and it keeps you caring with a good story. What Goes on Tour is good chick lit.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It is my honor to include an interview with Claire Boston. Keep reading to learn more about her, but be forewarned: this may include a few spoilers.

Q&A with Claire Boston

What research did you have to do for Adrian’s storyline? Do you have experience in the music business, or did you have to research what it would be like for him?
I did quite a bit of research for this story. Luckily the members of the Romance Writers of Australia are a varied and knowledgeable bunch. Sometimes I posted questions to the email loop and there would be a few people who would answer me. I got some of the details about the music industry from there and also detail about climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I also emailed a few people to get information. I emailed a lawyer in Texas to find out about child custody and I contacted an Australian talk show to get details about what happens back stage. In all cases, people were so helpful and it helped me build a more realistic story.

Adrian’s explanation for how he conceived of Kent was interesting, as was his need to differentiate between the two. Do you think celebrities in general compartmentalize themselves like that? What about writers? Do you have to put on your “writer face” as opposed to the real person?
I think everyone compartmentalizes themselves to some extent. The way you behave at work isn’t necessarily the way you behave at home. There are different expectations from each location. At work you’re expected to be professional, business-like and have a certain amount of grooming but at home you can sit around in board shorts and bathers and no one cares.

For me, I don’t think I have a “writer face” – it’s pretty much what you see is what you get. Although in saying that, I am a little bit more careful about what I say on Twitter, Facebook and in blogs because you never know how people might interpret the things you write. I have the same issue at work. I’m always getting in trouble with the emails I write because people read more into them than I mean.

Both Adrian and Libby came from dysfunctional families. While Adrian’s abuse was physical, Libby’s was just as harmful and deliberate. How much of that personal history of theirs factored into their success as a couple? Did you ever intend for one of them to be from a more stable family, or did you think that only by sharing such instability could they be together?
I knew from the outset that Adrian came from a dysfunctional family but I wasn’t sure how dysfunctional it was until I delved a bit deeper into the story. For Libby, I didn’t expect her to come from the emotionally neglectful family she came from and it was a bit of a surprise when I discovered that was at the root of some of Libby’s issues. In the end I think it worked because they had some idea where they were both coming from, but it wasn’t a conscious decision.

There is some social commentary in the book regarding the public’s obsession with celebrity and our willingness to believe anything salacious over the more mundane reality. Why do you think we would rather think that Adrian fired Emily because of a new love interest rather than the truth?
I never meant What Goes on Tour to be a social commentary about the public’s obsession with celebrity but I can see how it can be interpreted that way. I think the idea of Adrian firing Emily because of a new love interest is more salacious and buys into that expectation that rock stars have a different woman on their arm every week. It’s not as interesting to think Adrian might have fired Emily because of her actions because it goes against the public expectation that rock stars are promiscuous.

Quite a bit of the novel deals with appearance versus reality (the appearance of Kent versus the reality of Adrian, the appearance of Libby “masterminding” Kate’s press conference versus her horror and concern), and it’s difficult for any of the characters to see reality on their own. Each of them needs some sort of help from another character. Was this an intentional decision, or did you use it primarily as a plot device?
It wasn’t an intentional decision but I do think that sometimes it’s difficult to see all sides of an issue by yourself. I’ve noticed people have a tendency to jump to the most negative conclusion instead of giving people the benefit of the doubt and so I think it’s good to point out other options. I like my husband’s take on drivers who speed past you on the freeway, and weave in and out of traffic dangerously. He always says, “Maybe the driver is busting for the toilet.” Sometimes it’s nicer to give people the benefit of the doubt – in my experience it’s definitely less stressful.

Libby gives Kate some advice regarding writing novels. What advice would you give any prospective writers?
Make sure you write. Don’t spend your time talking about wanting to be a writer, make some time to write as often as you can and preferably on a regular basis. I get up at 5.30am to do an hour’s writing before work because that way I get my writing time when the house is quiet. Find something that works for you whether it be on the bus or train on the way to work, at 10pm when the house has gone to bed, or on your lunch break. Just make sure you write.

Then when you’ve written something, put it aside. I was told time is the best editor and it’s true. Put your novel aside and work on the next one. When you’ve finished that one, go back to the original novel and you’ll see all the things you couldn’t see when you first finished it.

Will we ever see Adrian and Libby again, perhaps as supporting characters in George’s story?
I’m not sure. I’ve had some ideas about writing George’s story and maybe Piper’s as well but there’s nothing definite yet.

Who are some of your literary influences?
As a child I was a massive Enid Blyton fan and as I grew older, Nora Roberts became my favourite author.

You share with us Libby’s moment when she realizes that she can be a full-time writer. What was that moment like for you? Libby doesn’t have anyone to share it with, which made me sad for her. With whom did you share your news?
It hasn’t happened yet! I work full time and write before work and on weekends. When I first got the news that my book was going to be published I think I may have screamed and done a happy dance before ringing my husband at work. I left a slightly garbled message on his mobile for him to call me and then decided I couldn’t wait for him to check his messages and called the ward (he’s a nurse). It was the first time I’d called the ward and I told the lady who answered to get him to call me back as soon as he could. By the time he had a chance to call he was sure something bad had happened and was relieved when he heard my news.

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English Girl in New York

english girl in NYEnglish Girl in New York
by Scarlet Wilson
Published by Harlequin
256 pages
Genre: chick lit, romance 
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3 / 5

Carrie McKenzie has had a bad year.

No, really. Hers truly was bad, in a very sad, heartbreaking way.

So when her boss offers her the opportunity to spend a year in New York, she takes it. Perhaps what she needs is a change of scenery?

She lives in a cute brownstone and is surrounded, for the most part, by elderly dwellers. Except for that one good looking dude who doesn’t give her the time of day.

Thanks to a freak October snowstorm and a baby abandoned on the doorstep, though, Carrie meets this man and discovers that he’s a police officer. And that he isn’t just good looking, he’s HOT.

For his part, Dan Cooper is one of those “I serve the citizens of New York” kind of guys who’s too busy to spend quality time with the ladies. His idea of a relationship is breakfast the morning after. So when Carrie shows up with that abandoned baby, he is none too thrilled.

All it takes, though, is a few days of forced living together to bring these two crazy lovebirds together.

As Cute Romance Novels go, this one is fairly standard. Both Carrie and Dan have what you’d call tortured histories, and of course their broken souls are drawn to each other. In Cute Romance Novel fashion, they have a wizened helper (not to mention a newborn infant), and it doesn’t take long for them to wonder if perhaps they shouldn’t take each other more seriously, romance-wise.

There isn’t much to this, other than its cuteness. The ending is quite tidy and convenient, but hey. It’s a Harlequin romance with nearly zero hot headboard rockin’, so, you know. It is what it is.

Cute, quick read.

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