Review: Passion on Park Avenue (Central Park Pact #1) by Lauren Layne

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the author of the New York Times bestselling Stiletto and Oxford series, the first in a sizzling new series following the unlikely friendship of three Upper East Side women as they struggle to achieve their dreams and find true love and happiness in the city that never sleeps. 

For as long as she can remember, Bronx-born Naomi Powell has had one goal: to prove her worth among the Upper East Side elite—the same people for which her mom worked as a housekeeper. Now, as the strongminded, sassy CEO of one of the biggest jewelry empires in the country, Naomi finally has exactly what she wants—but it’s going to take more than just the right address to make Manhattan’s upper class stop treating her like an outsider.

The worst offender is her new neighbor, Oliver Cunningham—the grown son of the very family Naomi’s mother used to work for. Oliver used to torment Naomi when they were children, and as a ridiculously attractive adult, he’s tormenting her in entirely different ways. Now they find themselves engaged in a battle-of-wills that will either consume or destroy them…

Filled with charm and heart and plenty of sex and snark, this entertaining series will hook you from the very first page.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

Passion on Park Avenue will be available May 28, 2019.

I’m a big fan of Lauren Layne and always look forward to her books. While Passion on Park Avenue was enjoyable, I have to admit I found it a little underwhelming.

I’m going to start with the things I liked:

-I loved Oliver. He was smart and sweet and loyal and I just adored him. I liked his dedication to his family, even though they had their issues. I liked the romance between him and Naomi, even if it was frustrating sometimes.

-I liked Naomi’s new friends, Audrey and Claire. We actually don’t see as much of them as I expected, but I’m interested in both of their upcoming stories.

-While Lauren Layne is one of my favorite Romance authors, my usual complaint with her books is that there are always a few scenes more graphic than I care for. I’m so happy to report that that was not the case with this book! There’s innuendo and suggestive talk, but there are no sex scenes and I really appreciated it. I thought it put the romantic focus much more on emotions and actual relationship details instead of just physical stuff and I found it much more meaningful.

Ok, so now onto the things that didn’t quite work for me:

-For a good long while in this book, I did not like Naomi at all. She just came across so shallow to me. Everything was just about status and money and expensive stuff and I just couldn’t care about it. Also, her big revenge plan was to move back into her old apartment building and then let her mom’s former employer and his son know who she was and how she had as much money as them now. I wasn’t really sure what that would accomplish? It’s not like she was buying the building and kicking them out. Or buying their business out from under them. It just didn’t make a lot of sense to me.

-I also thought Naomi was an odd choice for the first book in the series. She was that brash character that always speaks her mind, even if it could be hurtful. The kind of character that is usually the main character’s best friend that you don’t really like until she gets her own book and then you get to know her better. I did eventually like her, but it took me awhile. I’m much more interested in Claire and Audrey’s stories (particularly Audrey and Clarke).

-One of the subplots include the development of a tv show based on Naomi’s rags to riches story. I found that interesting, but thought it could have been explored much more than it was.

Overall, I did enjoy Passion on Park Avenue. I liked the friendship and Oliver and how the romance focused more on the relationship than on the physical stuff. I felt like not a whole lot really happened in the story, though, and it took me a really long time to start caring about Naomi, so I’m giving this a little lower rating than I do most Layne books. However, I am definitely looking forward to the next books in this series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

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Review: The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Amy, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.

Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.

Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of… lucky.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Unhoneymooners will be available May 14, 2019. 

This book was so fun! The Unhoneymooners is definitely among my favorite of Christina Lauren’s books and I know it’s one I’ll be re-reading in the future.

I absolutely loved the banter between Olive and Ethan. There was also a lot of humor surrounding Olive’s very large, very involved family. I was smiling a lot while reading this book. I also loved that the story employed two of my favorite tropes: Hate-to-Love and Fake Relationship. I enjoyed watching their relationship change as they got to know each other better and the awkward moments as they pretended to be a couple.

Both main characters were likable and I shipped them together. That said, Olive was frustrating at times. She had communication issues and she jumped to conclusions pretty easily. I also thought she was a little too stubborn on things she shouldn’t have been. One of the big obstacles between Olive and Ethan comes from them disagreeing about Ethan’s brother’s (who is also Olive’s new brother-in-law) behavior. The fact that Ethan would give his brother the benefit of the doubt instead of automatically agreeing with Olive seemed a reasonable response from his character and her treating it like such a betrayal seemed a little over the top.

Speaking of Ethan, I wish we would’ve gotten more from his point of view (we only get one chapter at the end). I went into this expecting it to be dual POVs, so it took me a little while to get over that, but I did ultimately enjoy Olive’s POV, so it still worked for me.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Unhoneymooners. I loved the banter and the fake relationship situations and the romance (though there are a few scenes a little more graphic than I prefer). This is a perfect read for somebody in a real Rom-Com type of mood and I definitely recommend it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

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Synopsis from GoodReads:

Tiffy and Leon share an apartment. Tiffy and Leon have never met.

After a bad breakup, Tiffy Moore needs a place to live. Fast. And cheap. But the apartments in her budget have her wondering if astonishingly colored mold on the walls counts as art.

Desperation makes her open minded, so she answers an ad for a flatshare. Leon, a night shift worker, will take the apartment during the day, and Tiffy can have it nights and weekends. He’ll only ever be there when she’s at the office. In fact, they’ll never even have to meet.

Tiffy and Leon start writing each other notes – first about what day is garbage day, and politely establishing what leftovers are up for grabs, and the evergreen question of whether the toilet seat should stay up or down. Even though they are opposites, they soon become friends. And then maybe more.

But falling in love with your roommate is probably a terrible idea…especially if you’ve never met.

What if your roommate is your soul mate? A joyful, quirky romantic comedy, Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare is a feel-good novel about finding love in the most unexpected of ways.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Flatshare will be available May 28, 2019. 

The Flatshare is a super cute and fun debut and I really enjoyed it!

I thought the odd flatshare arrangement was really unique. Since Tiffy and Leon work different shifts and Leon is always away on the weekends, their paths never need to cross – and Leon’s jealous girlfriend will make sure of it. However, they still need to communicate to each other sometimes and they start leaving each other notes. As time goes on, the notes go more from business to personal. I really enjoyed the notes and how their relationship develops. It’s several months before they do actually meet in person (in spectacularly awkward fashion) and I loved how it developed further from there, as well. Their banter was funny and quirky and I completely shipped them.

I really thought all the characters were well done. I loved Tiffy’s group of friends and the different perspectives they brought to the story. I also liked Leon’s brother who managed to still be a point of lightness in the story, even though he was going through some awful stuff. I even thought Justin, Tiffy’s abusive ex-boyfriend, was well done – though obviously I hated him. While they were sometimes a little over-the-top, all the characters came off as real and relatable and I enjoyed reading about them, even when it didn’t feel like a lot was going on at times.

The story isn’t all fun and romance, though. There are a couple of really heavy topics woven throughout the book. Leon’s brother, Richie, is in jail for a crime he claims he didn’t commit and Leon has been working tirelessly to get him an appeal. Tiffy is dealing with trying to break free of her psychologically and emotionally abuse ex-boyfriend who keeps popping back up. It seems I’ve read a lot of books lately with this particular plot line and while I’m happy that such a prevalent and important topic is being addressed more often, it is really hard for me to read. It’s hard to not get frustrated with the person being abused because it’s so obvious what has been happening and it’s hard to understand how that person doesn’t see it. I did really appreciate Tiffy’s journey, though.

There were a couple things I didn’t love, though. The chapters from Leon’s point of view had kind of a weird narrative and structure. Leon is a really quiet guy and doesn’t use any more words than absolutely necessary. Dialogue was also presented more like a script than with “he said/she said” format. It took a long time to get used to how his chapters were written.  It was a little off-putting at first, but eventually I kind of stopped noticing it. Also, while it never got super graphic, there was more focus on sex than I prefer in my books. And though it doesn’t take up much of the story at all, there are a few mentions of American politics that I didn’t love. I read fiction to get away from all the craziness of real life. And doesn’t Europe have enough of their own problems to talk about instead of bringing the US into it?

Overall, I really enjoyed The Flatshare. I loved the characters and the humor and the romance. Even though there were some heavy topics, I really enjoyed almost every moment of the book. I thought it was a very impressive debut and it’s a book I know I will read again.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

 

Review: Huge Deal (21 Wall Street #3) by Lauren Layne

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Even for a top-gun banker, temptation this hot is quite a gamble, in a sexy Wall Street romp from New York Times bestselling author Lauren Layne.

An alpha among the wolves of Wall Street, Kennedy Dawson rose to the top of the pack by striking the right contracts at the right times. But there’s one deal that’s been giving him a run for his money—a pact to never again let his assistant, Kate, get under his skin. She may be smart, gorgeous, and sharp as a whip, but she’s definitely off-limits.

Kate Henley isn’t a banker, but she knows a thing or two about risk management—specifically, about managing her attraction to her smolderingly sexy boss. She already fell once, and Kennedy showed no sign of paying a return on her investment. So when Kennedy’s brother starts pursuing her, Kate figures she has the best of both worlds. Jack is charming, rich, very attentive, and the spitting image of his older brother.

It’s also making Kennedy think twice. But to win Kate’s heart, he’ll have to broker the deal of a lifetime…and prove he’s worth the risk.

I have wanted a Kate and Kennedy story since book one in this series and Huge Deal did not disappoint. Lauren Layne reminds me once again why she is one of my favorite Romance authors.

Kennedy has been my favorite of the trio of guys in this series. I liked that he was more serious and less playboy-esque. He tends to be a little oblivious, though. While it was obvious in the first couple of books that Kate had a thing for him, it takes him a long time to really catch on. Meanwhile, Kate is trying to not have a thing for him anymore. For the most part, I liked the way their relationship evolved throughout the book. I liked seeing Kennedy realize his feelings for her and then pursuing her. I also like that he had to work for it a bit.

However, I thought he had to work for Kate’s affection for the wrong reasons. It’s one thing that she would want to be cautious because he’s hurt her in the past with careless words. Instead, the reason she started to pull back felt kind of disingenuous to her character. I don’t want to go too into it since it could be a spoiler, but she was basically one of those women giddy about the thought of love and then after a sad circumstance decides that it couldn’t possibly be worth the risk. It just didn’t really work for me. Thankfully, though, the story didn’t dwell too much on this stage.

Overall, I really enjoyed Huge Deal. I loved seeing the characters from the previous books and the addition of Kennedy’s brother, Jack. I wouldn’t mind a Jack book, actually. I loved seeing my Kennedy-Kate ship finally sail. This has been one of my most anticipated books of 2019 and it lived up to the hype for me.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Romancing His Rival (Accidentally Yours #3) by Jennifer Shirk

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Hopeless romantic Elena Mason doesn’t often hate people, but she hates her ex-fiancé’s insufferable best man, Lucas Albright III. She just knows Lucas is the one who talked her ex out of getting married—so Lucas is clearly the cause of all her problems.

And now she’s expected to work with him? Oh, heck no.

Lucas Albright wants nothing more than to make partner at his advertising firm, and he knows he works best alone. But then Elena ends up as his partner on an account that could win him a promotion. He had a great reason to end her engagement, not that she’d ever believe him. Still, he’s willing to try working as a team.

Unfortunately, his new “partner” wants him dead.

Elena knows she’s going to have to give in and work with her nemesis, though nobody said it had to be easy for him. But what happens when fighting starts feeling a whole lot like falling in love?

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Romancing His Rival will be available February 11, 2019. 

Jennifer Shirk always writes such sweet romances and Romancing His Rival was a great addition to the Accidentally Yours series.

The story was a little Hate-to-Love, which I always enjoy, though the hating was really only on Elena’s side. I liked seeing Lucas eventually win her over as she realized her preconceived ideas about him were wrong. I thought they had good chemistry together and I shipped them.

I was often frustrated by Elena, though. It’s so obvious that Scott is an awful choice for her, but she’s so desperate to be in a relationship that she refuses to see it. I have seen many women settle for a bad relationship that eventually ended and brought more pain just because they were so desperate not to be alone and I will never understand it. However, I did really love the lesson Elena learned about having to find happiness yourself and not depending on other people for it. So many Romances have the love interests “saving/fixing/healing” each other and it’s really refreshing to see a story that shows how romantic love can enhance your life, without being the reason for your whole life.

One thing I didn’t like, which isn’t really a comment on the story itself, is how I don’t feel the title represents the book well. The title, along with the synopsis, makes it sound like they’re both in the same field and have been competing against each other when they’re paired up on a project and have to work together. In reality, Lucas kind of has to beg Elena to help him on his project, as a freelancer. I think something like “enemy” would have been a better choice than “rival”. Also, Lucas never hated Elena, so while he might be her enemy/rival, she was never his. I know this is super picky to point out and while it didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the book at all, it still bugged me.

Overall, I enjoyed Romancing His Rival. The romance was cute and I was glad to see Elena get a happy ending. I also really appreciated the message of not depending on other people to be happy. I recommend this one to fans of sweet Romances.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the New York Times bestselling author that “hilariously depicts modern dating” (Us Weekly) comes a sexy romantic comedy about online dating, and its many, many fails.

With a world-famous speaker at their university, Millie Morris and her four woefully single male colleagues make a pact that they’ll all find dates. Unfortunately, Millie has more success helping them make matches online than she does navigating the onslaught of lewd pics in her own feed. But when she creates a fictional name for a new account, Millie finds herself vying for the online attention of a man she sees every day in the flesh.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

My Favorite Half-Night Stand will be available 12/4/18.

Super cute and fun, My Favorite Half-Night Stand was enjoyable from start to finish.

I absolutely adored Millie and Reid’s friend group. All my favorite parts were when they were all together or group messaging. They were funny, but could also be really supportive. In my younger years, I had a lot of very platonic guy friends and some of the conversations they have in this book reminded me so much of hanging out with my friends and being the only girl in the group. I loved how relatable they were.

I liked Millie and Reid together, too. They had a closer friendship than Millie had with the other guys and I really enjoyed their banter and how they were with each other. I didn’t love their half-night stands, but seeing as that’s the title of the book, I knew what I was getting myself into. The scenes were more graphic than I wanted, but not that bad as it could have been since I was expecting it. And of course, a large part of the target audience will be all about it.

So where it went a little downhill for me was Millie’s absolute inability to talk about anything emotionally heavy and how the online dating storyline was extremely similar to another book I’ve read recently. I didn’t like Millie’s deceit, even though she had good intentions, and I knew that it would eventually blow up in her face. She really frustrated me at times with her refusal to communicate, too. However, I did like that she really learned some lessons and started to grow as a person because of what happened.

Overall, I really enjoyed My Favorite Half-Night Stand. I liked the romance and the humor and the characters. The group of friends is the reason why I’m upping my rating a little bit more than I thought I would originally give it. Christina Lauren fans will definitely want to give this one a try, as will other Romance/Contemporary readers.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Hot Winter Nights (Heartbreaker Bay #6) by Jill Shalvis

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Who needs mistletoe?

Most people wouldn’t think of a bad Santa case as the perfect Christmas gift. Then again, Molly Malone, office manager at Hunt Investigations, isn’t most people, and she could really use a distraction from the fantasies she’s been having since spending the night with her very secret crush, Lucas Knight. Nothing happened, not that Lucas knows that—but Molly just wants to enjoy being a little naughty for once . . .

Whiskey and pain meds for almost-healed bullet wounds don’t mix. Lucas needs to remember that next time he’s shot on the job, which may be sooner rather than later if Molly’s brother, Joe, finds out about them. Lucas can’t believe he’s drawing a blank on his (supposedly) passionate tryst with Molly, who’s the hottest, smartest, strongest woman he’s ever known. Strong enough to kick his butt if she discovers he’s been assigned to babysit her on her first case. And hot enough to melt his cold heart this Christmas.

I received a copy via the publisher. It does not impact my review. 

I’ve really been in the mood for cute romances lately and Hot Winter Nights definitely fit the bill.

I liked both Molly and Lucas. I thought they really complemented each other well and made a good team. I thought they got together, physically at least, a little more quickly than I would’ve liked, but I did definitely ship them together. I enjoyed their banter and how they had each other’s backs. I also liked how Molly’s physical disability was portrayed. Though she had some struggles, she didn’t let it keep her from doing the things she wanted.

There were a couple of things I found a little odd. One thing I’ve noticed about this series is that all the chapters are titled with hashtags and for the life of me I can’t understand why. Social media is not really a part of the story at all and I just don’t get the hashtags. Speaking of social media, though, I also recognized a lot of the funny one-liners from Molly’s friends or the elderly elves were actually from memes I’ve seen on Pinterest. Other than those small things, the only thing I didn’t really like about the book were that there were a few more sexual scenes than I care to read, but from reading other Shalvis books I kind of expected it so it didn’t really hinder my enjoyment that much.

Overall, I enjoyed Hot Winter Nights. I thought it was a cute romance with likable lead characters. I liked that the investigation plotline brought a little bit of action and suspense, as well. I definitely recommend this one to Romance fans, especially fans of Jill Shalvis.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars