|Pub Date: 11-2-21|
Adult - Contemporary
I Hate You More- Lucy Gilmore: Ruby Taylor is no stranger to beauty pageants. By the time she was eighteen, she had won more crowns than one person could ever need and decided enough was enough. She swore she'd never return to the competition world, but when one of her beloved residents at her retirement home swindles her into entering her Golden Retriever, Wheezy, in the upcoming West Coast Canine Classic, Ruby has no choice but to polish up her pageant smile. Spencer Wilson is a by-the-book veterinarian and takes his job as a dog-show judge very seriously. So, when he meets Ruby and her overweight-definitely-not-purebred-dog, he tells her to quit while she's ahead. Ruby has never been one to back down from a challenge and is prepared to pull out all the stops to whip Wheezy into shape and make Spencer eat his words. What she wasn't prepared for was losing her heart in the process.
When I read the synopsis of this, I felt like it was written just for me. A grumpy/sunshine rom-com featuring a dog? Sign me up! While this was adorable and had its charming moments, it was ultimately a little too bland for my tastes. Since this is pretty short, everything moves quite quickly and I think that hurt the story a bit. You only really get a few chapters of Ruby and Spencer clashing before they're coupled up. It was like on one page they were bickering, and then a few paragraphs later, they were hooking up. I think this would've benefitted if it had been 50 or so pages longer. It would've given Gilmore more time to build the tension and fully flesh out Ruby and Spencer's dynamic to make it feel more natural. It was a cute premise, and Wheezy definitely added some hilarious moments, but I just wanted a little bit more.
|Pub Date: 10-19-21|
Adult - Holiday/Contemporary
Window Shopping- Tessa Bailey: Stella is fresh out of prison and looking to rebuild her life, but unfortunately, not many people want to take a chance on an ex-con. Before being locked up, Stella dreamt of becoming a window dresser and even started taking online classes in fashion merchandising. While out walking the streets of New York City, one display window catches Stella's eye, and when a charming stranger named Aiden asks her what she thinks, she can't help but blurt out the truth that it's hideous. When Aiden, who turns out to be the store's general manager, offers her a job, Stella takes the opportunity and runs with it. Stella is grateful for the chance to get her life back on track and will do whatever it takes to make it work, and she knows falling for her boss is the last thing she should be doing. Aiden couldn't be farther from Stella's type. He's corny and has an affinity for Christmas-themed bowties, but Stella can't help but be drawn to him, especially when she sees how unrestrained he can be once the tie comes off. But when Stella's past comes knocking, she'll have to decide what she wants her future to look like and find the courage within herself to pursue it.
I'm not usually a fan of holiday romances, but dang, if Tessa Bailey hasn't got me rethinking my whole stance on the genre. I absolutely loved this. I went in thinking it was going to be super cheesy and full of clichés, but I ended up having a great time. I loved how this was a reverse grumpy/sunshine trope with Stella being the standoffish one and Aiden being this sweet cinnamon roll who was hot as heck. The banter and chemistry they had were off the charts, and I couldn't get enough. Was their relationship a tad insta-lovey? Of course. Did I mind? Not in the slightest. Bailey perfectly balances out the cute and steamy moments so nothing ever felt lacking. Both Stella and Aiden have issues from their pasts to work on, and seeing them open up and be vulnerable with each other was satisfying and added another layer to the story. If you're looking for the perfect holiday book to warm your heart but also get it racing, I can't recommend this one enough.
|Pub Date: 10-5-21|
Adult - Horror
The Death of Jane Lawrence- Caitlin Starling: Jane Shoringfield has always had a practical mind. She knows that she must marry but is in no hurry to lose her independence, so she makes a list of like-minded men who wouldn't mind a marriage of convenience. At the top of her list is the dashing yet reclusive Dr. Augustine Lawrence. Augustine accepts her proposal, but on one condition: she must never visit Lindridge Hall, his crumbling family manor on the outskirts of town. When a rainstorm hits on their wedding night stranding Jane at the manor, she doesn't see what the big deal is if she stays. To her horror, she finds her husband is not the same steadfast man once the sun goes down. In his place is a paranoid man who can't tell the difference between reality and nightmare. By morning, Augustine is back to normal, leaving Jane to believe something terrible is haunting Lindridge Hall, and it's up to her to stop the darkness before it claims her, too.
This is said to be Shirley Jackson meets Rebecca, and that description is spot-on. It has all the slow-building tension of a Gothic horror and moments that will leave you glancing over your shoulder. Starling nails the eerie atmosphere, and there were more than a few times I felt my skin crawl because I was so unsettled. I enjoyed following Jane on this journey of discovering what was going on with her husband and the strange happens at his estate. The more intense her investigation gets, the more you feel like you're spiraling into the blackness along with her. The only issue I had with this is that since Gothics tend to be slow, I found myself getting bored about halfway through. However, I did get pulled back in once the third act hit and the conflict was at its peak, and couldn't wait to see how everything was going to play out. If you enjoy creepy haunted house stories and don't mind a slower pace, this would be a good one to pick up.