REVIEW – Only When It’s Us by Chloe Liese

Okay, maybe i’m convinced. Contemporary romance might just be for me – and i’m officially on the Chloe Liese/Bergman Brothers bandwagon. Willa and Ryder’s story is fun and compelling. Willa is a spitfire – and can honestly be kind of a jerk most of the time. Ryder is just a fluffy marshmallow. He’s a bit closed off, but he’s also been dealing with hearing loss after a severe illness a few years prior.

Ryder’s family is THE BEST. I want to hang out with them. I want to live with them. I want to celebrate holidays with them. They’re fun and sweet and hilarious. Also, Willa’s mom is badass and such lovely character.

Yes, there’s a decent amount of steam in this book (as a newer/more casual romance reader, I don’t have much to compare it to). And yes, Liese has PERFECTED the slow, agonizing build, but the payoff is more than worth the wait and the “JUST KISS ALREADY” moments.

Something I think is really worth noting because it impressed the hell out of me: the interactions in this book feel so real and authentic. Liese has perfected the use of dialogue in a contemporary setting without making it feel forced or stilted. It’s funny and emotional and well-rounded.

Romance fans or romance skeptics – I urge you to give this one a shot!

Content warning: cancer, death of a parent.

REVIEW – The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

“That’s right, she was the bitch who broke the pretty blond boy’s heart, live on the JumboTron.”

The Proposal was a case of right book, right time for me. I was in desperate need of something light and fun and this was the perfect choice! I loved the relationship between Nik and Carlos. Nik’s friends are an absolute delight and Carlos’ family dynamics are perfect. Sure, this gets a little cliche at times, but romcoms are pretty formulaic and reliable.

This was my first book by Jasmine Guillory, but I intend to eventually read the rest of the books in The Wedding Date series.

REVIEW – Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

“If I had died today, what would my eulogy say?”

What a CUTE book! I am not a romance reader in the slightest, but the hype and reviews compelled me to choose this for a Book of the Month box. I am so glad I picked it up! Chloe Brown is a hilarious main character – she’s relatable and snarky and (mostly) self-aware.

I loved Chloe’s relationship with her sisters. Dani and Eve, although somewhat minimally featured, were great characters! I think Hibbert has plans to write books revolving around them, and I look forward to picking those up.

And Red. Oh, Red. What a sweet, loving man. The way he describes Chloe is so lovely – it’s warm and heartfelt. I loved what Hibbert did with Red’s back story. He felt like such an atypical main male character and it was a breath of fresh air.

“The promise of more with him glittered like broken glass, beautiful but potentially deadly. Good things usually hurt in the end.”

Chloe and Red’s relationship was portrayed as sweet and vulnerable. It felt so realistic. Not once during this book did I roll my eyes or go “oh, brother!” Hey, I said i’m not a romance reader! I’ve had bad luck in the past with cheesy, cliche stories that just don’t work for me (but are beloved by many others, so truly…if you feel it’s the genre for you, give romance a chance!)

Did this book turn me into a romance reader? Absolutely not. But it did make me a fan of Talia Hibbert! She is an incredible writer – I read some passages twice because I loved the writing so much. I liked this more than I thought I would and i’m willing to give similar books a fighting chance against my standard thriller/horror/mystery reads.

REVIEW – The Light After the War by Anita Abriel

“No man can wipe out truth and beauty. Human beings were born to create great things, and they will do so again.”

The Light After the War is a post-WWII account of Vera and Edith, two best friends living in Naples, Italy (and eventually ending up in Caracas, Venezuela). The novel is based on the author’s mother’s story of surviving WWII and her experiences in the years immediately following the end of the war.

“When they were together, Vera felt like she and Edith were two girls on a grand adventure instead of orphans alone in the world.”

There was a lot to like about this book. The writing is incredibly vivid and provides a beautiful, delicious description of Naples, before moving on to warm, colorful Caracas. I felt like I was there right alongside Vera and Edith (and it was wonderful!) I loved that both Vera and Edith had career aspirations – Vera dreamt of being a playwright and Edith wanted to be a clothing designer. Some of the most interesting aspects of the book were the plot points that led each woman down her own career path.

“That was the thing about Edith: she believed falling in love was the answer to everything, even escaping the war.”

This is primarily a historical romance, and honestly I would have found it a bit unbelievable (and a little too fluffy) if not based on a true story. (I guess truth really is stranger than fiction sometimes!) It leaned a little too light and airy at times for my taste, but I think romance lovers will really enjoy this story.

“Death is everywhere, but so is life.”

My favorite part of Abriel’s writing was how she tied events and objects from the “present” timeline in the book, to Vera and Edith’s experiences as children and during the war. It was really impactful to get their backstories in small bits and pieces, even at times when you’d least expect it. Ultimately, it’s a very hopeful book but it doesn’t gloss over the realities and horrors of the war. It strikes the perfect balance between joy and sorrow.

I know many avid readers may think the historical fiction genre is oversaturated with WWII novels, but I would urge you to give this one a try – the war is a key part of the story, but it’s not the main focus.

Thank you Atria for sending me a finished copy of this book!

REVIEW – After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

“Isn’t it nice, once you’ve outgrown the idea of what life should be and you just enjoy what it is?”

This book is…fine. TJR is great at writing page-turning books (I read this over the course of one day).

There’s a lot of profound advice and thought-provoking points throughout the story. But there are also some predictable and sugary sweet moments (which is probably great for fans of contemporary romance, but it’s not my usual genre so take my opinion with a grain of salt!)

Like her other books I’ve read, TJR is also great at writing stories that would translate well on screen. After I Do would likely be a popular movie if it were ever adapted.

REVIEW – All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover

This book was frustrating for me. It is the perfect example of what unrealistic, overly romantic expectations can do to a marriage, combined with personal trauma/grief and a severe lack of communication.

The writing is decent. This is not a criticism of Colleen Hoover as an author, this just isn’t my preferred genre. I’m sure others who enjoy love stories would enjoy this book.