A Deal with the Elf King (Married to Magic #1) by Elise Kova

Every 100 years, the Elf King comes to Luella’s village to pick a human bride in order to fulfill a centuries old pact. The Human Queen must have magic, so Luella knows it isn’t her, until a long kept secret is revealed. Suddenly, she whisked away to a new land and role that she had no preparation for and is married to the cold Elf King.

Fantasy/Romance, 338 pages, published in 2020

Every 100 years, the Elf King comes to Luella’s village to pick a human bride in order to fulfill a centuries old pact. The Human Queen must have magic, so Luella knows it isn’t her, until a long kept secret is revealed. Suddenly, she whisked away to a new land and role that she had no preparation for and is married to the cold Elf King.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Content Warning: arranged/forced marriage, semi-graphic sex

I saw the cover and the premise of this book…and I had to pick it up. Fake relationships (including fake dating, contract marriage, fake marriage, and arranged marriage) is probably my all time favorite romance trope, so add elves into that, and I’m in.

The beginning started off a little weird. There is a childhood friend love interest that annoyed me while I was reading, but he ended up not being a big part of the story at all. How Luella reacts to this character’s action kind of sets her up for the rest of the book, so beyond that, this guy had no point.

The first 200 pages or so felt very….repetitive. Luella has to get used to living in the elf realm and has to figure out what is expected of her as the Human Queen. She was a healer in her village, so she picks up working in the greenhouse. She doesn’t interact all that much with the Elf King, Eldas, even though he has agreed to teach her about her magic. It felt like every time one of them would open up to the other, they would immediately put their walls up and go right back to where they started.

Once plot finally started happening and Luella and Eldas actually started forming a bond, the pages flew by. Luella is very fiery and strong-willed, so sometimes she did things that weren’t necessarily well-thought out. Eldas kind of lacks a personality, but in general he was a decent guy.

The magic felt a little convenient at times, but overall, I think this world was pretty cool. Elves, fae, mer, vampyrs, and more all live across a border from a human village, where the humans have a longer than normal lifespan due to their proximity to magic.

I ended up with very lukewarm feelings. I can see the potential, but this book was just alright. This is going to be a series of standalones that will all be set in this world (I believe), so I’m definitely interested in reading more. I also am very intrigued by this author’s series because I think her writing style would translate well to a series. Plus, I’ve seen her Air Awakens series all over the place and I’ve always been interested but a little intimidated!

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Truth or Beard (Wintson Brothers #1) by Penny Reid

After moving home after college, Jessica runs into Beau, the boy from her hometown that she’s had a crush on since she was a teenager, but through a bizarre chain of events, she becomes involved with his twin, Duane.

Romance, 390 pages, published in 2015

After moving home after college, Jessica runs into Beau, the boy from her hometown that she’s had a crush on since she was a teenager, but through a bizarre chain of events, she becomes involved with his twin, Duane.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Content Warnings: graphic sex, guns, gangs, questionable consent

I was hoping I was really going to love this series because they are all free on Audible Plus, but unfortunately, this was a huge miss for me.

The initial scene already put a bad taste in my mouth. Jessica and who she thinks is Beau, do some things worthy of consent right at the beginning of the book, but in reality, it is his twin Duane, who is making her think that he is Beau. She has very different relationships with the twins, so it just felt really gross to me to have her duped in this way. Duane even gets mad at her when she is mad about the situation, which I thought was ridiculous.

I was hoping it would improve from there, but it didn’t for me. I just thought that everything was so drawn out and there were so many side plots and unnecessary twists that it just felt like a slog to get through. There was a whole biker gang plotline that I felt was barely mentioned in the synopsis, but took up so much of the book. There was also a whole plotline with Jessica’s aunt that really had no purpose in this story.

I felt neutral about Jessica, but I really didn’t like Duane. At times, he was cute, but he just kept doing really stupid things. He also insisted on doing things “the right way” with Jessica, which felt old-fashioned, especially because Jessica didn’t care about that.

Their relationship was just filled with so much miscommunication. The deal breaker for their relationship that caused tension had such an easy answer in my mind, but it took them the entire book to get there. By the time they got to the resolution, I just didn’t care.

I really don’t have anything positive to say about this book. I didn’t even vibe with the narrator and none of the side characters were interesting to me. I’ve seen quite a few people enjoy this book, but it really wasn’t for me.

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Take a Hint, Dani Brown (The Brown Sisters #2) by Talia Hibbert

After being caught in a viral video together, Dani and Zaf decide it could be mutually beneficial if they pretended they were dating. Zaf gets the publicity to get his company off the ground and Dani gets the no-strings sex she’s been looking for…until neither of them can deny the feelings between them.

Romance, 320 pages, published in 2020

After being caught in a viral video together, Dani and Zaf decide it could be mutually beneficial if they pretended they were dating. Zaf gets the publicity to get his company off the ground and Dani gets the no-strings sex she’s been looking for…until neither of them can deny the feelings between them.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content Warnings: graphic sex, grief, anxiety, discussion of the death of a family member

Talia Hibbert did it again! This book was just as good as Get a Life, Chloe Brown!

Dani is a workaholic PhD candidate at a university, where she is working on feminist theory. Zaf, a former pro rugby player, is the security guard at the building she works in and is trying to get his organization to help young boys with their mental health off the ground. They are friendly for awhile before Zaf gets caught on video carrying Dani out of the building during a routine drill.

I thought Dani and Zaf were both really cool people, so I really enjoyed both of them! I felt like they didn’t fall into stereotypical gender roles for romance novels, which I really appreciated. I particularly loved Zaf. He went through some tough stuff in the past, and he used his mental health struggles as an inspiration for his organization. He is also dealing with anxiety throughout this book, so it’s not like his mental illness just magically went away. Besides that, he was just a generally sweet guy!

I ended up getting a little frustrated towards the end because Dani was so insistent on not being in a relationship. She thinks that she’s not made for relationships because of all of her previous breakups. It just felt a little drawn out to me.

Overall though, I loved this book! I feel like I don’t have much to say because I enjoyed it that much! If you are looking for diverse and steamy romances, definitely check this series out.

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The Trouble with Hating You by Sajni Patel

After walking out on the man her parents set her up with, Liya discovers that he is the lawyer sent to save her company. They do not want to be working together, but they realize that they might not hate each other as much as they thought they did.

Romance, 336 pages, published in 2020

After walking out on the man her parents set her up with, Liya discovers that he is the lawyer sent to save her company. They do not want to be working together, but they realize that they might not hate each other as much as they thought they did.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content Warnings: sexual assault (mentioned multiple times, past and present), grief/guilt, death of a parent (mentioned)

I didn’t totally love this book, but overall, it was a fun time!

The book follows Liya, who just got promoted to a high position in her sinking company, and Jay, a lawyer who was hired to save the company. Liya has a pretty rough relationship with her parents, specifically her father. Her father sticks to pretty strict Indian ideals, so he disapproves of her living alone, being in relationships with men, and prioritizing work over getting married. These pressures have caused her to never wanted to get married or conform at all to what her parents want. Jay, on the other hand, doesn’t think he deserves to be happily married because of the guilt he feels because he believes that he caused his father’s death.

This book definitely goes into gender roles, especially in Indian-American communities. Liya has a reputation for being trashy because she’s dated around, but none of the guys who have done the same have this reputation. There is also a lot of victim-blaming, which was kind of hard to read about. Liya and her female friends are expected to be perfect wives and mothers, even if that’s not what they want for themselves.

I was a little confused at first because I really could not tell how old the characters were. They have full careers and Liya owns $400 shirts and Louboutins, but their interactions felt kind of juvenile sometimes, especially towards the beginning.

One thing I did really enjoy about their relationship was that they had open communication and understanding about their previous traumas.

I really liked how the ending was handled, but I do think it wrapped up too fast. I wish some of the plot points handled at the end could have been expanded and shown throughout the story more.

This book didn’t have any sex scenes, which was disappointing for me, but if you are looking for romance without steamy scenes, I’d definitely recommend this one!

Overall, it was a fun time, but not necessarily a story that is going to stick with me.

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Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner

After Emma goes to a red carpet with her boss Jo, a Hollywood actress and writer, rumors start about the two of them dating.

After Emma goes to a red carpet with her boss Jo, a Hollywood actress and writer, rumors start about the two of them dating.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Content Warnings: sexual harassment, graphic sex

I was super excited about this book because it is the first sapphic romance published by Berkley (not even going to get into the fact that it took them until 2020 to publish the first sapphic romance). Unfortunately, it just fell flat for me.

This book started out really well. Almost immediately, Emma and Jo are wrapped up in dating rumors. They were friendly beforehand, and grow closer through working together, but it just took forever for them to get to the next stage of their relationship. Normally, this slow burn would be right up my alley, but I just did not feel any chemistry between Emma and Jo. There was certainly some attraction, but I didn’t feel anything else between them. I saw a ton of reviews disliking how slow it was, but for me, it would have been fine if there was at least some tension.

The communication between Emma and Jo was also a big issue for me. They just were honestly really bad at communicating with each other. If they had been better at it, this book probably would have been faster-paced and less drawn out. There were so many times that I was frustrated with them because the only thing keeping them apart was their lack of communication.

Neither Emma or Jo really stuck out to me as characters. I don’t feel like either really went through any major change in the course of this book.

I didn’t particularly love the age gap between Emma and Jo. Emma was in her mid-20’s and Jo was in her 40’s. Jo started in Hollywood as a teen, so she had been in the industry longer than Emma had even been alive, which I tried to ignore. That is just personal preference though.

The end of this book was also super abrupt. It didn’t really feel like there was much of a final conflict, so it felt a little unfulfilling.

I’m disappointed overall, but I definitely hope Berkley (and others) publish more sapphic romances! I would also be interested in reading more from Meryl Wilsner in the future.

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Get a Life, Chloe Brown (The Brown Sisters #1) by Talia Hibbert

After seeing her life (or lack of) flash before her eyes in a near-death experience, Chloe makes a list of things that will help her get a life. After moving out of her family’s house, she comes to an agreement with her apartment handyman and artist, Red, to help her check items off her list.

Romance, 369 pages, published in 2019

After seeing her life (or lack of) flash before her eyes in a near-death experience, Chloe makes a list of things that will help her get a life. After moving out of her family’s house, she comes to an agreement with her apartment handyman and artist, Red, to help her check items off her list.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content Warnings: chronic illness, past abuse, graphic sex

I kind of picked this book up on a whim, but it ended up becoming one of my all-time favorite romances!

I love the way that Chloe’s chronic illness was handled throughout this book. I saw so many reviews that complained that it was mentioned too often, but if you’re living with chronic illness or chronic pain, you don’t get a chance to forget about it and it affects daily life, so why should the reader be able to forget about it?

I really liked both Chloe and Red as individual characters. Chloe is strong and brave and Red is guarded, but so caring and attentive. They both had individual goals that they worked towards, with support from each other.

I freaking loved the relationship between these two! There was so much sexual tension between them in the beginning that absolutely killed me. I love scenarios, like this one, that have two characters working together on something, so they have excuses to be around each other all the time. I also loved how respectful and understanding they both were to each other. Red is so attentive and always keeps in mind what could push Chloe too far in terms of her physical limits and Chloe keeps Red’s past trauma in mind.

There was some conflict at the end of the book, but I actually think that it was pretty reasonable, given Red’s past experiences. It was resolved quickly, so I didn’t have an issue with it.

I also loved the ending because it was just really cute, but it also avoided the three cliches I hate in romance novel endings (I won’t say which ones they are).

I can’t wait to read more from this series and more from Talia Hibbert in general! She stated somewhere that her goal is to write sexy, diverse romances, and I think she has absolutely done that with this book!

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Beach Read by Emily Henry

January’s life is turned upside down when she inherits her late father’s secret beach house. Moving there after everything else falls apart is her last resort, especially when she discovers that her new neighbor is fellow author and long- time rival, Augustus Everett. Augustus has never believed that January’s romance novel are worth much, but in order to defeat writer’s block, they agree on a challenge – Augustus will will write a novel with a happy ending and January will try to write the next American novel.

Romance, 361 pages, published in 2020

January’s life is turned upside down when she inherits her late father’s secret beach house. Moving there after everything else falls apart is her last resort, especially when she discovers that her new neighbor is fellow author and long- time rival, Augustus Everett. Augustus has never believed that January’s romance novel are worth much, but in order to defeat writer’s block, they agree on a challenge – Augustus will will write a novel with a happy ending and January will try to write the next American novel.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content Warnings: Cheating (not main characters), grief, childhood trauma, abuse, & abandonment issues, investigation of a cult, explicit sex

I was initially a little turned off from this book because I feel like the writing started out unnecessarily complicated. However, I either got used to it or the writing improved, but other than that, I loved this book!

I absolutely love the setup of this book! Gus takes January to investigate a local cult to help her with her book, and January takes Gus on rom-com worthy field trips to help him with his book. I think situations like this, where the characters have these things they have to do together, are so good! It kind of starts as a chore for both of them, but then it evolves into something they both look forward to.

Since they live next door, they can see each other through their kitchen windows, so they write notes to each other. Notes is another one of my favorite tropes, so I really enjoyed that detail!

I also really liked that this went a little more into January and Gus’s personal problems, beyond just the romance. January has to come to terms with the fact that her father had a whole part of his life that she never knew about, and Gus is dealing with some issues from his childhood, as well as other things. They both help each other through these things as well, which I loved.

The romance overall was really cute. There was a ton of tension between then from the beginning, first rivalry, then sexual. There were so many small moments between them that were so good. There was a little bit of miscommunication at one point, which I really don’t like, but it wasn’t overdone or anything.

This book was really just great! It’s the first book in a long time that I’ve stayed up late to finish and I read it in like a day and a half.

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The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon

After going viral online for finding out that her boyfriend was cheating on her with two other women, Samiah and the two other women become friends and agree that they are going to go six months without dating to just focus on themselves. But when Daniel, the new guy at Samiah’s company, comes along, she might have a hard time sticking to her new no dating rule.

Romance, 368 pages, published in 2020

After going viral online for finding out that her boyfriend was cheating on her with two other women, Samiah and the two other women become friends and agree that they are going to go six months without dating to just focus on themselves. But when Daniel, the new guy at Samiah’s company, comes along, she might have a hard time sticking to her new no dating rule.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This book was such a fun time! It had so many things about it that I loved that I don’t see super often in romance.

Samiah works in the tech industry and is invaluable to her company, but she has had to fight in order to be there. Being a Black woman, she has had to work much harder than her white male peers in order to be taken seriously, so she knows that even one mistake could ruin her career and the potential careers of Black girls in the future, so she puts tons of pressure on herself to always be perfect. Because of this, she puts work first, even over the app she’s been dreaming about developing for years.

Daniel is a half-Black, half-Korean secret agent who begins working at Samiah’s company in order to find someone who is money laundering. He can’t tell anyone what he is there is to do because it may compromise the mission, so he struggles with having to lie, even as his relationship furthers with Samiah. I normally hate when lying is part of the plot, but it is totally understand why he needs to keep secrets and he felt awful about it the entire time.

I loved the development of Samiah and Daniel’s relationship. While I did wish there were more scenes of their small moments, I really liked that it was kind of a slow burn, or at least, as much of a slow burn as you can get in a 300 page romance novel. They both communicated and listened to each other a lot, which I really appreciated.

One of my biggest complaints is that sometimes things felt repetitive. Samiah would have the same conversations over and over, especially about concerns over her app. I also wish that the friendship between Samiah and the two other girls was a little more present. The premise of the book is based on their friendship, but I just didn’t feel like I got enough of them. Also, I did not really understand the terminology that went with Samiah’s technology job or Daniel’s money laundering investigation, so I kind of skimmed parts where those were talked about a lot.

I really liked that this book focused so much on the characters’ lives outside of the romance, especially Samiah’s. I also appreciated that it was more of a slow burn. The resolution to the final conflict could have been really overdone and drawn out, but it wasn’t at all and I really liked how it was handled.

Overall, this was just a really enjoyable read! I couldn’t tell if I was more jealous of the romance or how well Samiah’s company treated it’s employees 😂 I can’t relate to either one! I am curious to see if this becomes a series, because the other two girls could definitely have their own romances as well.

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When a Scot Ties the Knot (Castles Ever After #3) by Tessa Dare

In order to avoid social situations, Madeline Gracechurch tells a small little lie – she is engaged to Captain MacKenzie. Everyone believes him to be real, but Maddie has completely made him up and sends him fake letters to prove her devotion. After many years of this deception, she fakes his death and everyone leaves her to live her own life. After she’s inherited a castle however, the real Captain Logan MacKenzie shows up, ready to get married like she promised in her letters.

Historical Romance, 384 pages, published in 2015

In order to avoid social situations, Madeline Gracechurch tells a small little lie – she is engaged to Captain MacKenzie. Everyone believes him to be real, but Maddie has completely made him up and sends him fake letters to prove her devotion. After many years of this deception, she fakes his death and everyone leaves her to live her own life. After she’s inherited a castle however, the real Captain Logan MacKenzie shows up, ready to get married like she promised in her letters.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

After not loving the previous book in this series, I was a little worried about this one, but those fears were for no reason! I really enjoyed this book, thought it wasn’t a new favorite or anything.

This book is set in a fairly remote castle, which I loved. I feel like the remoteness lets you really focus on the main characters. I also thought the setup for this was ridiculous in the best possible way. It was like an arranged marriage…but also not, because it was arranged by chance.

One of the reasons why I enjoyed this so much is because it has elements of a marriage of convince/fake marriage. Maddie and Logan also have to share a bedroom, so there are plenty of good scenes around that element.

Another reason is because I found Maddie very relatable. She creates a supposedly fictional man in order to escape social gatherings because she has social anxiety. She also keeps the lie going for a very long time because of that anxiety. I also loved that she had a career that she was passionate about.

I really enjoyed Maddie and Logan’s relationship, but I had a hard time understanding what was actually keeping them apart for so long. It seemed like it was just nonsense that was getting in the way, when in reality, there was no reason for them to not be together. I wanted a little bit more about Logan coming to terms with his past, because it all seemed a little bare bones.

Overall though, another entertaining book from Tessa Dare! The scene in the bog (I think it was a bog…) was super memorable to me! I think I will start in on her Spindle Cove series next, since the last book in this series is a crossover between the two.

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Say Yes to the Marquess (Castles Ever After #2) by Tessa Dare

After an eight year engagement to Piers Brandon, the Marquess of Granville, Clio wants out. She has recently inherited a castle and has big plans for her future. The only problem is that the Marquess has been out of the country for months and has no expected return date. Champion fighter Rafe needs his brother, the Marquess, to get married, so he takes control of planning the wedding while his brother is abroad.

Historical Romance, 374 pages, published in 2014

After an eight year engagement to Piers Brandon, the Marquess of Granville, Clio wants out. She has recently inherited a castle and has big plans for her future. The only problem is that the Marquess has been out of the country for months and has no expected return date. Champion fighter Rafe needs his brother, the Marquess, to get married, so he takes control of planning the wedding while his brother is abroad.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I have very neutral feelings about this book. I really loved some things about it, but I also really disliked some things. This book is definitely my least favorite Tessa Dare book so far.

The whole setup of the romance is not a trope I enjoy. Clio has know Rafe and Piers since they were kids, so it was natural that she would have a semi-arranged marriage with Piers. I do not like brothers competing for a love interest, and while they weren’t actually competing in this book, it still had the same vibe. I also don’t really enjoy childhood friends to lovers, it just doesn’t do it for me.

The pacing of this book felt weird to me, since it didn’t really seem to follow the “formula” of other Tessa Dare books I’ve read. It definitely wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, so that threw me a little bit.

Rafe’s whole personality is built on the fact that he’s a fighter. I did not really care about the fighting aspect of this, so I never really connected with Rafe a whole lot.

I did really like that Clio and Rafe got closer to each other while planning a wedding. It raised the tension to have Rafe see Clio picking out flowers, cake, and dresses, but for a wedding that wasn’t to him.

The ending was really cute as well! The resolution of the final conflict was really good. I also loved that the epilogue avoided my most hated trope, so that definitely was a major positive to me.

I also have in my notes that the first sex scene was “really hot”, but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was…so do what you will with that information.

Oerall, I did enjoy this book, but it’s definitely not a new favorite. I’ve read three of the Castles Ever After books so far, and this one is the weakest.

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