Friday Feature: Serenity Harbour by RaeAnne Thayne

One of the titles I picked up from the library is by one of my favourite romance writers, RaeAnne Thayne. Serenity Harbour had been on my wishlist for a while and I thought now would be the perfect time to pick it up and read it.

The story takes place in Haven Point and centres on two characters named Bowie Callahan, a computer tech millionaire, and Katrina Bailey, a schoolteacher.

Bo is struggling to look after his young half brother, Milo, while settling into a new job. Kat is willing to help him with the care of the child because working with Milo will give her the money to get closer towards her goal of adopting an orphaned girl.

I enjoyed this read that hints at autism and special needs children. I also enjoyed the personality of all the characters – it made the story more enjoyable to me. Serenity Harbour was a perfect read for me this past week as it was not too intense and ended with a positive note.

Have you read any titles by ReaAnne Thayne?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novels was the 101th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Under Currents by Nora Roberts

My hold for the audiobook Under Currents by Nora Roberts came in and I eagerly began listening to it. This title had been on my TBR list and I thought that listening to the story instead of reading the text may help me put a dent into my list.

Format: Audiobook

Narrator: January LaVoy

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Mystery

Blurb:

Within the walls of a tasteful, perfectly kept house in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, young Zane Bigelow feels like a prisoner of war. Strangers—and even Zane’s own aunt across the lake—see his parents as a successful surgeon and his stylish wife, making appearances at their children’s ballet recitals and baseball games. Zane and his sister know the truth: There is something terribly wrong.

As his father’s violent, controlling rages—and his mother’s complicity—become more and more oppressive, Zane counts the years, months, days until he can escape. He looks out for little Britt, warning her Be smart. Be careful. In fear for his very life, he plays along with the insidious lie that everything is fine, while scribbling his real thoughts in a secret journal he must carefully hide away.

When one brutal, shattering night finally reveals cracks in the façade, Zane begins to understand that some people are willing to face the truth, even when it hurts. As he grows into manhood and builds a new kind of family, he will find that while the darkness of his past may always shadow him, it will also show him what is necessary for good to triumph—and give him strength to draw on when he once again must stand up and defend himself and the ones he loves… 

My Thoughts:

The audio version of this book was fantastic and I really enjoyed listening to LaVoy as she performed the story. The accents for the different characters were spot on and the emotions were perfectly pitched. I think the audio added another dimension to the story and increased my enjoyment of it.

Under Currents explores a sensitive topic – that of domestic violence. We see the affect of violence on both a child and a spouse. Even though the topic is a difficult one, Roberts explores it with sensitivity. I like that the story ends with a sense of hope even though I know, realistically, that domestic violence doesn’t always end happily.

Roberts is a master at creating the perfect pace to keep a reader’s interest. The story also had a good mix of serious topics, mystery, and romance. The characters are varied and true to life and I enjoyed listening to the connections that they made with one another. I always enjoy reading the contemporary fiction novels by Nora Roberts and this one did not disappoint.

I give this audio novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novels was the 58th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Grown Up Pose by Sonja Lalli

I had previously read and enjoyed a novel by Sonja Lalli so when I saw the audiobook for Grown Up Pose was available at the library, I decided to listen to the novel instead of reading the text.

Format: Audiobook

Genre: Contemporary, Romance

Blurb:

A delightfully modern look at what happens for a young woman when tradition, dating, and independence collide, from acclaimed author Sonya Lalli.

Adulting shouldn’t be this hard. Especially in your thirties. Having been pressured by her tight-knit community to get married at a young age to her first serious boyfriend, Anu Desai is now on her own again and feels like she is starting from the beginning.

But Anu doesn’t have time to start over. Telling her parents that she was separating from her husband was the hardest thing she’s ever done—and she’s still dealing with the fallout. She has her young daughter to support and when she invests all of her savings into running her own yoga studio, the feelings of irresponsibility send Anu reeling. She’ll be forced to look inside herself to learn what she truly wants.

My Thoughts:

The narration of this novel is well done and the Canadian, English, and Indian perfect. The excellent narration of the novel enhanced my enjoyment of the story.

The story is that of a woman in her early thirties who has an identity crisis – especially as she married when she was so young. She takes time out from her marriage and the presence of strong women in her life (her mother and mother-in-law). In doing so, she discovers who she is and reconnects with the dreams she had as a young woman.

The story moves between the past and the present. At times the shift did cause me confusion – a confusion, I think, which I would not have experienced had I been reading the text for myself. Looking back to past events helped me to understand, though, the actions of the character and why she made the choices that she did. There were times, though, when her reflections were a bit repetitive – and if I were reading, I would have skim read these paragraphs.

What I did enjoy in this novel was the snapshot into the Punjabi culture and the expectations of women within this culture. Reading this novel helped me to understand a little more the ways of the women within this group. I liked that the novel was unashamedly of a group of people I do not know much about.

The message I got from this story is that a woman can follow her dreams no matter what her responsibilities are. In addition, your age does not determine when it is that you can follow your dreams. Grown Up Pose is not a romance in the traditional sense. Instead, it is one that charts the story of an ordinary woman who rediscovers herself and her dreams, and finds what it is that makes her happy.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novels was the 57th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Hot and Hammered Series

I picked up the first two books in this series by Tessa Bailey as the people on Bookstagram raved about the stories. And the covers look cute! 🙂

Genre of both novels: Romance, Contemporary

Blurb for Fix Her Up:

Georgette Castle’s family runs the best home renovation business in town, but she picked balloons instead of blueprints and they haven’t taken her seriously since. Frankly, she’s over it. Georgie loves planning children’s birthday parties and making people laugh, just not at her own expense. She’s determined to fix herself up into a Woman of the World… whatever that means.

Phase one: new framework for her business (a website from this decade, perhaps?)

Phase two: a gut-reno on her wardrobe (fyi, leggings are pants.)

Phase three: updates to her exterior (do people still wax?)

Phase four: put herself on the market (and stop crushing on Travis Ford!)

Living her best life means facing the truth: Georgie hasn’t been on a date since, well, ever. Nobody’s asking the town clown out for a night of hot sex, that’s for sure. Maybe if people think she’s having a steamy love affair, they’ll acknowledge she’s not just the “little sister” who paints faces for a living. And who better to help demolish that image than the resident sports star and tabloid favorite?

Travis Ford was major league baseball’s hottest rookie when an injury ended his career. Now he’s flipping houses to keep busy and trying to forget his glory days. But he can’t even cross the street without someone recapping his greatest hits. Or making a joke about his… bat. And then there’s Georgie, his best friend’s sister, who is not a kid anymore. When she proposes a wild scheme—that they pretend to date, to shock her family and help him land a new job—he agrees. What’s the harm? It’s not like it’s real. But the girl Travis used to tease is now a funny, full-of-life woman and there’s nothing fake about how much he wants her..

Blurb for Love Her Or Lose Her:

Rosie and Dominic Vega are the perfect couple: high school sweethearts, best friends, madly in love. Well, they used to be anyway. Now Rosie’s lucky to get a caveman grunt from the ex-soldier every time she walks in the door. Dom is faithful and a great provider, but the man she fell in love with ten years ago is nowhere to be found. When her girlfriends encourage Rosie to demand more out of life and pursue her dream of opening a restaurant, she decides to demand more out of love, too. Three words: marriage boot camp.

Never in a million years did Rosie believe her stoic, too-manly-to-emote husband would actually agree to relationship rehab with a weed-smoking hippy. Dom talking about feelings? Sitting on pillows? Communing with nature? Learning love languages? Nope. But to her surprise, he’s all in, and it forces her to admit her own role in their cracked foundation. As they complete one ridiculous—yet surprisingly helpful—assignment after another, their remodeled relationship gets stronger than ever. Except just as they’re getting back on track, Rosie discovers Dom has a secret… and it could demolish everything. 

My Thoughts:

Both these novels are lighthearted reads that don’t require the reader to think too much about social or relationship issues. Like many romances of this genre, they were a little predictable and did not present any surprises. I liked the storyline of Fix Her Up especially as it is about a woman who is fighting to be taken seriously by her family. The storyline of Love Her Or Lose Her had the potential to be interesting (especially as there aren’t too many romances that deal with marriages that are facing difficulties), but the story was portrayed in a superficial way.

When reading a romance, I expect to read about kissing and sex. The sex scenes in these two novels, however, were a little overdone – and, to be honest, unrealistic. What made it even more unrealistic, to me, was that the scenes in both novels were similar. With different characters, I expect different ways of relating to one another sexually. The focus on sex unfortunately impacted the meat of the storyline and, for me, the enjoyment of the novel.

There is a third book in this series that has come out. I am not sure whether I will read it – time will tell.

I give Fix Her Up ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars and Love Her Or Lose Her ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(These novels were the 54th and 55th novels in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Based on Pride and Prejudice

Instagram is a wonderful place to meet like-minded book lovers. Through one of my buddy reads, I connected with someone who loves Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as much as I. She told me about a retelling that I had not yet read, Coming Up Roses by Staci Hart, and I decided I wanted to read it. The bonus was the realisation that Staci Hart is an indie author. When purchasing the novel, I decided to purchase the second in the series, Gilded Lily, as it was claimed to also have connections to Austen’s novel.

Genre of both novels: Romance, Contemporary, Retelling

Blurb for Coming Up Roses:

Everyone hates parts of their job.

Maybe it’s the paperwork. Maybe it’s the day-to-day grind. Maybe it’s that client who never knows what they want, or the guy who always cooks fish in the microwave.

But not me. I love every corner of the Longbourne Flower Shop, every flower, every petal, every stem. I love the greenhouse, and I love Mrs. Bennet, my boss. I love creating, and I love being a florist. I don’t hate anything at all.

Except for Luke Bennet.

The Bennet brothers have come home to help their mom save the flower shop, and Luke is at the helm. His smile tells a tale of lust, loose and easy. He moves with the grace of a predator, feral and wild. A thing unbridled, without rules or constraint.

When he comes home to save Longbourne, I almost can’t be mad at him.

Almost.

He doesn’t remember that night I’ll never forget. That kiss, touched with whiskey and fire. It branded me like a red-hot iron. But it meant nothing to him.

Everyone hates part of their job, and I hate Luke Bennet.
Because if I don’t, I’ll fall in love with him.

Blurb for Gilded Lily:

They say there’s no such thing as perfect.

But I’ve built my life to perfection—the perfect boyfriend, the perfect apartment, the perfect career planning celebrity weddings. My job—my only job—is to make sure every event is absolutely and completely perfect.

What’s not perfect? Kash Bennet.

And I wish I didn’t find that so appealing.

I could have told you every perfectly imperfect thing about the gardener at Longbourne. Like his hair, lush and black and far too long. Or his nose, the flat bridge of a Greek god, bent a little like it’s been broken. Or his size. Beastly. Roped and corded with muscles, gleaming with sweat and peppered with dirt.

There’s no escaping him, not if I’m going to use his family’s flower shop for my events.

But nothing is what it seems. And in the span of a heartbeat, my perfect life is turned inside out.

They say the best way to get over somebody is to get under somebody new. When Kash offers his services to the cause, it sounds like the perfect plan.

What’s not part of the plan? Falling in love with the gardener.

But they were right—there’s no such thing as perfect.
And I’m the fool who finds out the hard way. 

My Thoughts:

The stories are VERY loosely based on Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. The novels do address the theme of the original novel, and reference as well the characterisations of Elizabeth and Darcy – although the sex of the characters has been changed. What I loved was Hart’s representation of Mrs Bennett – it was spot-on and perfectly done. I loved it so much that I would love to see more of her in the stories (that seem to be a series she is currently writing).

The novels do not give an in-depth portrayal of the characters. Even though the characters do come to certain realisations, we do not see their growth and development towards these realisations and, in a way, the characterisations are superficial. Having said that, however, the format followed in general romance novels is that in-depth explorations are not expected.

I enjoyed both of Hart’s romance novels in this series. They were a perfect read for my mood – I wanted something lighthearted that did not encourage too much thought. The well written words made me chuckle and I did want to find out how the characters found their true love (after all, that is what happens in novels like these). If you enjoy romance novels as well as supporting indie authors, the series on the Bennet Brothers is worth picking up.

I give these novels ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 51st and 52nd novels in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Siri, Who Am I? by Sam Tschida

When I saw the title of this novel by Sam Tschida at the OLA Super Conference, I had to pick it up. Who wouldn’t be intrigued by the title Siri, Who Am I?

Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance

Blurb:

Mia might look like a Millennial but she was born yesterday. Emerging from a coma with short-term amnesia after an accident, Mia can’t remember her own name until the Siri assistant on her iPhone provides it. Based on her cool hairstyle (undercut with glamorous waves), dress (Prada), and signature lipstick (Chanel), she senses she’s wealthy, but the only way to know for sure is to retrace her steps once she leaves the hospital. Using Instagram and Uber, she arrives at the pink duplex she calls home in posts but finds Max, a cute, off-duty postdoc supplementing his income with a house-sitting gig. He tells her the house belongs to JP, a billionaire with a chocolate empire. A few texts later, JP confirms her wildest dreams: they’re in love, Mia is living the good life, and he’ll be back that weekend.

But as Mia and Max work backward through her Instagram and across Los Angeles to learn more about her, they discover a surprising truth behind her perfect Instagram feed, and evidence that her head wound was no accident. Who was Mia before she woke up in that hospital? And is it too late for her to rewrite her story?

My thoughts:

I had so much hope for this read, particularly because the scenario is so true to modern-day life. However the novel fell a little flat for me. There were moments when I felt bored by the story and wished that it would move on a little faster.

I felt no connection at all with the main character, Mia. Her portrayal in the novel was one dimensional and not very interesting to read. One would expect that she would grow in character during the story when reading the blurb. But even though her growth was suggested, it was glossed over and did not resonate with me. In addition, the romance did fall a little flat.

Siri, Who am I? is a novel with not much substance – maybe a little like the Instagram influencers. This was an okay read for me and not one I would pick up again.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 42nd novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez

I had read good things about The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez on Instagram and jumped at the opportunity to read this novel with others. I dug into it quickly when I need some lighthearted reading.

Genre: Contemporary. Romance

Blurb:

Kristen Petersen doesn’t do drama, will fight to the death for her friends, and has no room in her life for guys who just don’t get her. She’s also keeping a big secret: facing a medically necessary procedure that will make it impossible for her to have children.

Planning her best friend’s wedding is bittersweet for Kristen—especially when she meets the best man, Josh Copeland. He’s funny, sexy, never offended by her mile-wide streak of sarcasm, and always one chicken enchilada ahead of her hangry. Even her dog, Stuntman Mike, adores him. The only catch: Josh wants a big family someday. Kristen knows he’d be better off with someone else, but as their attraction grows, it’s harder and harder to keep him at arm’s length.

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this story so much more than I thought I would – and it was a relief to see that the many women on Instagram who had recommended it to me had got it right! A bonus for me is that The Friend Zone is more than just a romance. The story explores the experience of a woman who is struggling with a uterine disease that impacts her life and her ability to have children.

Having said that, Kristen’s story is more than her inability to have children. Her story is about her accepting herself for who she is, inadequacies included. In the novel, we see her starting to believe that she does deserve to be happy – and that someone can love her for who she is despite her sterility. I enjoyed reading the story of her self-acceptance, and the acceptance by others of who she truly is.

I read the debut novel by Abby Jimenez in one sitting – which tells you how invested I was in the story. I could not put the novel down and needed to know whether Kristen would find the happiness she deserves. I enjoyed this romance with a thread of seriousness running through it and will certainly pick up the author’s next novel.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 35th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich

One of the things I have discovered during the period of social distancing and staying at home is the use of audiobooks from my local library. The second title I enjoyed in March was Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich. I had previously enjoyed reading novels by this author, so I looked forward to the story.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary, Romance

Format: Audiobook – read by Lorelei King

Blurb:

Life in Marblehead has had a pleasant predictability, until Diesel arrives. Rumor has it that a collection of priceless ancient relics representing the Seven Deadly Sins have made their way to Boston’s North Shore. Partnered with pastry chef Lizzie Tucker, Diesel bullies and charms his way through historic Salem to track them down—and his criminal mastermind cousin Gerewulf Grimorie. The black-haired, black-hearted Wulf is on the hunt for the relic representing gluttony. Caught in a race against time, Diesel and Lizzie soon find out that more isn’t always better, as they battle Wulf and the first of the deadly sins.With delectable characters and non-stop thrills that have made Janet Evanovich a household name, Wicked Appetite will leave you hungry for more.

My thoughts:

Wicked Appetite was a fun and hilarious story – and I often laughed out loud at the characters’ antics and at the words that came out of their mouths. This book definitely put me in a good mood – in fact, it encouraged me to continue listening even though I was done with my creative task. If you have read any of the Stephanie Plum stories by Janet Evanovich and enjoyed them, then this story is for you. The author’s effervescent humour is found in this novel too.

There is no character building and growth in this novel – but that is not the intention, I think, of the story. Instead it is a fun tale that will definitely take your mind off of the realities of the COVID-19 virus. I enjoyed the slapstick humour of witches and magic, as well as the dig at the fantasy genre.The audiobook is perfectly read by Lorelei King as her voice projects the humour expressed by the text.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 32nd novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Undercover Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams

After reading The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams, I could not wait much longer to read the sequel: Undercover Bromance.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary, Romance

Blurb:

Braden Mack thinks reading romance novels makes him an expert in love, but he’ll soon discover that real life is better than fiction. 

Liv Papandreas has a dream job as a sous chef at Nashville’s hottest restaurant. Too bad the celebrity chef owner is less than charming behind kitchen doors. After she catches him harassing a young hostess, she confronts him and gets fired. Liv vows revenge, but she’ll need assistance to take on the powerful chef.

Unfortunately, that means turning to Braden Mack. When Liv’s blackballed from the restaurant scene, the charismatic nightclub entrepreneur offers to help expose her ex-boss, but she is suspicious of his motives. He’ll need to call in reinforcements: the Bromance Book Club.

Inspired by the romantic suspense novel they’re reading, the book club assists Liv in setting up a sting operation to take down the chef. But they’re just as eager to help Mack figure out the way to Liv’s heart… even though she’s determined to squelch the sparks between them before she gets burned. 

My thoughts:

I enjoyed meeting once again the characters that I had met in the first book of the Bromance Book Club series. As with the first novel, a thread of lightheartedness runs though the story – which was perfect for this period of social distancing. There were times in the novel when I could not help but laugh in appreciation at what the characters said and did.

Despite the humour though, the story does address a more serious issue: that of sexual harassment by a powerful man. Not only does the story address the need for women to stand up against incidents of sexual harassment – but it also suggests the need for women to stand together and support one another when women do find the courage to stand up against the harassment they are experiencing. The need for women to stand together in solidarity and support one another seems to be a theme that runs through many of the recent novels I have read. What I do like about Undercover Bromance is that not all men are tarnished with the same brush.

The main characters (Mack and Liv) are shown as having both strengths and weaknesses – in this way I was able to relate to them as representations of real people. Both these characters grow during the story: they both realise that their past has impacted the way they relate to others. Acceptance of their past leads them to making decisions that will impact positively on their future.

I enjoyed the second novel in the series. Undercover Bromance is the perfect novel if you are looking for a modern romance story that explores issues that women currently face. It is definitely a fun read that draws you in. The second book in the Bromance Book Club is certainly worth a read. Now I wait for the next in the series. 😀

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 31st novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams

The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams is a novel I picked up because of the reviews I had read in Instagram by the bookish community. Staying at home due to social distancing was starting to feel difficult for me, so I picked up this title to give me some cheer.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance, Romantic Comedy

Blurb:

The first rule of book club: You don’t talk about book club.

Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott’s marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him.

Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.

Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville’s top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it’ll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife.

My thoughts:

This book was just what I needed to take my mind off the need to practice social distancing and the spread of the Coronavirus. The story was lighthearted but with a thread of seriousness running through it. I could not help but read this story in one sitting – I loved the characters so much.

The Bromance Book Club is told in a 2 person point of view: that of Gavin (the husband) and Thea (the wife). In this way, both sides are told of the problems they are experiencing in their marriage. In addition to the 2 person POV, the author has included excerpts from the novel that the Book Club is reading. It is a fun way to contrast reality vs a story, as well as past practices in romantic relationships with the present. It is interesting to see how Gavin applies the story he is reading with his friends to his own marriage.

The book doesn’t promise you to be more than what it is – a romance story that is geared to take you away from the reality of your life with some steamy sex scenes. What it does do, however, is bring a little humour in your day and encourage you to reach for the next book in the series. If you are looking for a contemporary romance read that will take you to another reality, then this is the novel for you.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 29th novel in my book pledge for 2020)