Reviews: Alphabetical By Author

Looking for your next great read? Alphabetized by author, here are as many reviews as I can fit on this page. From romances and rom-coms to fiction to a few non-fictions, get a quick summary and our take on these books! Plus, wine pairings (and occasionally other drink pairings) to match each book and enhance your reading experience. 

For more details on how we rate books, check out our Books page. Happy reading and drinking!

Cass has nothing going in her life but a boring job and terrible love life, so when she learns she’s inherited her estranged and presumed-dead dad’s yacht in Panama, she takes off with little hesitation. She quickly finds out that dear old dad left her with a steep marina bill she has no money to pay.

Archer likes his small-town life in the Canadian Rockies, but when he visits Panama, he’s surprised to find he likes the tropics even more. He wants to stay longer but has to find the money to extend his adventure.

Thus, a plan is hatched, with Cass and Archer starting a charter business to take tourists around the beautiful islands and reefs. They agree to keep it professional; he’s not looking for a relationship and she’s been burned too many times. . . .

Shelter by the Sea is a fun, breezy read with likeable characters and a laid-back vibe. The idyllic tropical setting dominates the book, in a good way, and made me daydream about escaping to a quiet life in the tropics working on a boat all day. Cass and Archer’s attraction is instant, though they try to keep it at bay, and it’s fun (most of the time) to watch their relationship with each other and their surroundings develop. There were some frustrating points with Cass’s indecision and fear of being left again, but overall a really nice story in a captivating setting that makes me smile when I remember reading it.

Rating: 3.8
Steam: Medium
Tropes: Proximity, Instant Attraction, Business Relationship, Tropical Setting
Pair With: Your favorite tropical drinks or a light summer white or rosé.

Fun and exuberant Libby is in a tough spot—flooded apartment, little money, and an improv business that isn’t paying the bills. Sweet but shy Henry, future Duke of Foxbrooke, needs his wild and eccentric family to get off his back about finding love. He’s heading home for his thirtieth birthday and needs a girlfriend . It sets up perfectly—Libby needs money, Henry needs a fake girlfriend, and hilarity ensues.

Of course since this is a fake relationship trope, we know it’ll take a while to admit their feelings. And the story was adorable with a ton of hilarious scenes, especially with Henry’s family. I did get annoyed with the repetitive miscommunication circles: they each like the other more and more but can’t let go of insecurities over and over again. And, a few actual adult conversations would have been nice. But otherwise I loved the characters—opposites in their external personalities but both genuinely loving and thoughtful people.

Rating: 3.8 (would be higher without all the miscommunications)
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Opposites Attract, Fake Relationship, Miscommunication, Proximity, Only One Bed
Pair With: Eccentric wines

Eveline is a small-town vicar in the charming village of Foxbrooke, England. She dreams of love and a family, but with few (and terrible) options, she feels it slipping away. There was that one guy she met at a London bar on one of her few trips out of Foxbrooke, but he swiftly walked away from her when another woman showed up.

Jack has gotten rich from his escort services, but it’s an empty life, and feels even emptier after meeting a mysterious woman in London yet walking away from her for a client. He returns to Foxbrooke for his appallingly abusive father’s funeral and sees . . . her?

Oh, the irony of the vicar and the escort. It makes for some drama and some hilarity, especially when you add in all the eccentric characters from the first book in this series (you can definitely read this one on its own, but it’s better if you read Love Ad Lib first). It goes a little too far with Eveline’s lack of experience—she supposedly partied and hooked up a little in her twenties, but it’s written as if she’s a sheltered teenage virgin. It makes the love scenes really awkward and a little weird, and there are a lot of those scenes.

Character growth was a strength of the book—they both come to terms with big issues and support each other through them, they each find new parts of themselves, and they find love and happiness in each other. The ending was super sweet—you know you’re getting an HEA in these books but it never really gets old.

Rating: 3.5
Steam: Medium to High
Themes and Tropes: Second Chance, Small Town, Opposites Attract, Forbidden Love
Pair With: Eccentric wine

If you like mafia romance thrillers, Possession is up your alley. Landyn’s criminal father sells her off to a brutal drug cartel leader who has zero humanity, with no way to escape. Lucky for her (relatively speaking), chaos breaks out at the ceremony and she ends up married to Brax, who’s another cartel guy but wants to keep her safe. They face constant danger, never know who to trust, and must stay ahead of warring factions and deadly conspiracies.

Overall, the suspense, thrill, and danger made this book a fun read and added to the romantic story. The plot was fast-moving and kept me entertained the whole time. Brax was a stunning character—smart, ruthless, brave, and haunted by loss. Landyn, on the other hand, was whiny and absurdly naïve for a mob boss’s daughter, and really didn’t have much personality to speak of. Still, the book was a fun read and different from most of the books I’ve read lately.

Rating: 3.5
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Romantic Thriller, Mafia, Arranged Marriage, Proximity
Pair With: 19 Crimes, Prisoner Wine Company, or Murder Ridge Winery.

In another fast-paced romantic thriller (sequel to Possession), DEA agent Micah comes to Evie’s door with news that her soon-to-be ex-husband hired a hitman to kill her and their son. And the hitman is still out there. Sweet and strong geriatrician Evie will do everything she can to protect her son, and Micah will do anything to protect them both.

I 98% loved Evie. She’s smart, caring (she goes to all her patients’ funerals), and tough as nails when she needs to be. She knows who she is and what she wants out of life, and owns her mistakes. But yikes—she finds out that her ex paid $750k to off her and their kid, and she thinks it’s fine to just head home with one security guy sitting out front. Really? She’s from one of the highest-profile, richest families in Miami, how does she not get top-of-the-line security?  

I loved Micah too—brusque and tough on the outside (like a DEA agent would be) with a real soft spot for Evie and a kind heart for the people he cares about. And hot, of course.

Tension bubbled throughout—between Evie and Micah, and with the murder/drug dealer situations. Tapped was fast-paced and full of action; at no point was I complaining that the story dragged and it kept me entertained the whole time. I wouldn’t have minded a little more conversation and emotion, but I can’t really complain.

Rating: 4
Steam: Medium to High
Themes and Tropes: Thriller/Suspense, Proximity, Opposites Attract, Protector
Pair With: Strong wines to match the strength of the characters. Consider a Zinfandel or a new world Syrah, such as Oak Ridge Ancient Vine Zinfandel, Macchia Zinfandel Mischievous Lodi, Tensley Colson Canyon Vineyard Syrah, or Michael David Winery Sixth Sense Syrah

Beth has independence, money, and friends; why complicate things with a man? But she can’t stay away from Lord Ian MacKenzie, who’s rumored to be mad and dangerous, and who comes from the most prominent (and scandalous) family in Scotland. Ian knows he can’t love anyone and can’t understand other people or real emotions, but he’s drawn to Beth like no one he’s ever met.

The first in the MacKenzies & McBrides series, The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie is one of my all-time favorite historical romances. It has adventure, mystery, lust, love, familial bonds, and just the best characters. Ian is a logical and mathematical genius, but cannot understand social cues and polite conversation. He says exactly what he thinks (and so has learned to simply not talk in polite society), which is so refreshing and, honestly, fun in a Regency read.

Beth recognizes the loving heart Ian doesn’t even realize he has, and their love grows throughout the story as they navigate vicious attempts to label Ian as a lunatic and murderer.

The MacKenzies scoff at social propriety and act as they please, and unlike other families, they can afford it. Family head and Duke Hart MacKenzie is one of the most powerful men in Britain and owns the oldest title in Scotland, the entire family is wealthy beyond measure, and they can survive any scandal. So no worries about too much dullness in this series! Each MacKenzie has a strong, vibrant personality that jumps off the pages and pushes its way into your brain.

Rating: 4.5
Steam: Medium +
Tropes: Scottish Hero, Opposites Attract, Widow, Mystery/Suspense
Pair With: Your favorite scotch

"I will have you back, Isabella—in my life, in my house, and in my bed."

Lady Isabella and Lord Mac live to scandalize London society. They elope the first night they meet, at her debut ball. Even though they’re madly in love, young and inexperienced Isabella can’t take Mac’s unstable and wild ways. So she leaves him in Paris, legal separation and all, to live on her own in London. 

But Mac can’t stay away forever and knows what he’s missed out on. He can’t live without Isabella and resolves to get her back in his life for good, for them to live as husband and wife and regain the happiness they once shared. 

I was already addicted to the MacKenzie family and so ready for Isabella and Mac’s story after reading The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie, Book One in this series. And Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage did not disappoint!

Clearly, they never stopped loving one another to the depths of their cores, but they need to rebuild trust. She can’t trust that he won’t revert to his old ways once they’re back together; he can’t trust that she won’t leave him again. Oh, but they cannot stay away from each other no matter how hard they try. 

The chemistry and passion sizzle throughout the book. Isabella and Mac carry so much love, attraction, want, and longing that you truly feel throughout the story. And damn if I don’t love them both. Mac’s love and determination to prove himself and earn his way back into her life; his passion, creativity, and artistic soul; his love for his family. Isabella’s sense of self and independence; her wisdom beyond her years; her love for Mac and all the MacKenzies. 

Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage can be a little slow and repetitive here and there, and I didn’t 100% love the subplot, but just thinking about this book again brings back warm memories and makes me want to pick it up yet again.   

Rating: 4
Steam: Medium 
Themes and Tropes: Second Chance, Estranged Couple, Artist, Strong Family, Scottish
Pair With: The best French wine you can find. 

New-money heiress and successful-in-her-own-right Daphne meets old-money (and equally successful) heir to the earldom Ian when she’s invited on a nightmare trip to meet her sister’s boyfriend’s family at the old ancestral estate. The ancestral estate that’s been the scene of dramatic deaths, epic love stories, torrid affairs, and family dysfunction.

Weird things keep happening, and they only get stranger and seem to target Daphne in particular. Which really bothers Ian. As the mystery gets deeper and more sinister, Ian and Daphne work harder to solve it and Ian is hell-bent on keeping her safe.

LOVED this book. Ian and Daphne were both 100% blunt, forthright, take-no-sh**-from anyone. They call people out on bad behavior and don’t put up with anyone’s insults; a refreshing break from so many characters who care way too much about being polite and not causing a scene. They instantly know they can trust each other and they feel the magnetic pull but it’s not sappy—Ian’s totally up front about wanting her and she’s pretty clear she wants him too.

But all the craziness going on! That made it so much fun and made the romantic storyline even better. There’s a legit creepy mystery to solve and they work together in their hilarious ways to solve it. I’m not sure I’d go as far as to call Ian “too good to be true”—he can be heavy-handed and dictatorial, but it all comes from a good place and he’s a natural protector.

The side characters are great too—there’s much more than meets the eye to Lady Alcott (and even Lord Alcott comes around), Daphne’s sister and Ian’s brother grew on me (a little bit), Daphne’s stepmother Lou (close to her age) was lovely. But talk about family dysfunction—wow! I won’t go further but there are some great examples.

It takes a while for the spice but when it rains, it pours. Plenty of foreshadowing that it will be wild and it follows through!

Rating: 4.5
Steam: Medium to High
Themes and Tropes: Thriller/Mystery, Proximity, Family Dysfunction
Pair With: Amaretto. I never drink this but should try it after reading this book.

Spoiled L.A. influencer and party girl Piper goes too far in throwing a wild party, and her Hollywood royalty stepdad decides it’s time for some tough love. He sends Piper and her sister on a strict budget to the tiny fishing village in Washington where she was born and knows almost nothing about.  

Gruff but all-around good guy and sea captain Brendan notices Piper instantly, and it doesn’t take long for sparks to fly.  These polar opposites really connect where it matters in love, loyalty, and seeing the best in each other.

You find more depth to Piper and realize she’s more than an LA party influencer as she starts to build connections around town and bring some light to the residents; you see Brendan growing out of his shell; you feel the camaraderie among the village residents; and you get some hot scenes that’ll stick with you for a while.  

It Happened One Summer pulls their two worlds together masterfully, lets the characters exorcise some demons, and leaves room for some laughs too! It also has one of the best happily-ever-afters! Highly recommend.

I have liked most of the Tessa Bailey books I’ve read—this one is by far the best one, though I also really like the sequel, Hook, Line & Sinker and am also a huge fan of Unfortunately Yours.

Rating: 5
Steam: Medium to High
Themes and Tropes: Opposites Attract, City Woman and Small-Town Man, Widower, Self-Discovery
Pair With: Seafaring themed wines, such as Red Schooner by Wagner Family of Wine ($50), Sailor’s Grave Cabernet ($28), Cedar + Salmon Red Blend from Washington ($24), and The Hidden Sea Red Blend ($20).

Quirky and energetic gardener Hallie and serious professor turned author Julian find love in idyllic Napa, California. Julian is staying at his family vineyard’s guest house for a perfectly peaceful writing spot. But Julian’s mom hires Hallie to design and spruce up the gardens—right by the guest house…. Of course Julian has no idea Hallie has been crushing on him since she was 14 and Hallie has no idea how much Julian’s starting to like her now.

There was a lot to like about this book. As soon as I saw vineyard setting, I was in! What could be more romantic? I’m not sure how much I liked either character at the beginning—Hallie is a lot to take and Julian is not even remotely flexible, but by the end you see what each is really all about, how big their hearts are, and how they bend a little for each other and balance each other out perfectly!

Rating: 4
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Small town, childhood crush, opposites attract, second chance
Pair with: Wine from the oldest Napa vineyards, since the Vos family is an established and famous vineyard in the book. Consider Charles Krug or Beringer

Following Secretly Yours by only a few months, Unfortunately Yours is the rare sequel that bests the original.

Natalie’s always been underestimated and ignored by her winemaking family, so off she went to get her business degree and kick ass in the New York hedge fund world. Until she made one mistake and wasn’t kicking ass anymore. Determined to get back to the top, she comes home for her trust fund to raise some capital, but there’s one problem—it requires a husband… antiquated, yes, but it says what it says.

Enter the smoking hot new guy in Napa and former Navy SEAL August, who wants to honor his late best friend’s legacy by running a successful vineyard. Who also happens to be Natalie’s sworn enemy. So far, his wine is terrible and he’s running out of money. So they decide to get married. What could go wrong?

So far, it sounds like just another marriage of convenience trope, right? But wait, there’s more. The themes are woven together perfectly: Natalie’s disillusionment with her family, August’s grief and need to atone for his friend’s death, inside and outside forces spurring them on yet driving them apart.

I really empathized with Natalie more than I usually can in a rom-com (and no, I don’t have a family like hers). You know there are the rom-coms where you just roll your eyes or let yourself get super irritated over the final obstacle—Unfortunately Yours isn’t one of those books. And without spoiling it, the ending was anything but unfortunate.

Rating: 5
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Marriage of convenience, fake relationship, enemies to lovers, military guy, Women dealing with boys’ club
Pair With: Wines from Veteran-Owned Vineyards.

Melody’s and Beat’s (yes, their actual names) respective rock-star mothers have despised each other for 30 years ever since their band’s dramatic and public breakup. Now Melody and Beat are offered $1 million each to get their moms to reunite on Christmas Eve. If you’re looking for a holiday rom-com, this one’s pretty fun. 

They each have reasons for going on reality TV. Melody’s mom has always been too busy on her hippie commune to pay even a little attention to Melody, but still sends an allowance every month. Melody would love to break free from her mother financially without having to leave her ancient-book-restorer job.

Beat needs money to pay off a blackmailer who has secrets about his parents. This is the premise I had a real problem with. Beat’s getting blackmailed because of something his mom did, she has tons of money, and he’s spent all of his paying off the guy. But rather than just tell his mom, he decides to do reality TV or even get a loan to pay for her mistake. I’m all for helping your family and there’s not much I wouldn’t do for my mom, but this is just dumb.

So Melody and Beat livestream their efforts to get their moms together, they go viral, and hilarity (among other things) ensues. They both have major trust issues stemming from their childhood fame, and who better than each other to lean on? As they grow closer and understand each other, they both grow and learn when it’s ok to trust, especially if they want to find and keep love.

Overall, Wreck the Halls was entertaining, with a ton of witty lines, funny scenes, dramatic moments, heartfelt conversations, and just fun. Some of it annoyed me, but what else is new. If you typically like Tessa Bailey books, it’s not as good as the Bellinger Sisters series or Unfortunately Yours, but still worth the read.

Rating: 3.9
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Opposites Attract, Christmas/Holidays, Celebrities, Childhood Acquaintances
Pair With: Wines associated with rock stars. Check out these possibilities: Wine and Booze Brands, Musician-Owned Wines

Hope Travers lives and runs the gin distillery (among other jobs) on her close-knit family’s large and prosperous estate. She’s so ready for her own house and finds the perfect spot on the estate. But when the crew breaks ground, they run into what looks like ancient ruins.

When university archaeologist Cameron Ferguson shows up to run the dig, he and Hope instantly gravitate toward one another. But as the dig progresses and family secrets are uncovered, things start to go wrong all over the estate, and Hope wonders what they’ve stumbled into.

Where We Belong is a great read with excellent main characters and a refreshingly good relationship between them. Hope is kind, thoughtful, and smart—and like lots of women, she gets shit done! Cam is also a really thoughtful and smart guy, who comes from a working class background but has no chip on his shoulder and is working toward his professional dreams.

What’s so great about their relationship is they act like adults, unlike so many romance novels! They are honest with each other and don’t play ridiculous games—even though they have a little baggage, it doesn’t get in the way of their relationship.

The family secrets plot was interesting, but so much was left unresolved. The author is clearly starting a new series and doesn’t want to tie up all the loose ends in one book, but there are a lot of them. A little more buildup of Hope and Cam’s relationship would have been nice, but I really can’t complain. The next book in the series, In From the Cold, was a good follow-up–you can see my review below.

Rating: 4
Steam: None
Themes and Tropes: Close Proximity, Family Secrets, Small Village, Mystery
Pair With: British Craft Gin

Ben’s world completely crashes in on him at his father’s funeral—he meets people claiming to be his sister and cousin and telling him he has a massive family he never knew about. He’s baffled, and as he investigates, he discovers lie after lie his father told him and truths that were covered up. He craves answers, but isn’t sure he’s ready to confront a so-called family—and a mother—who just let him go.

Amelia’s world was always rough, but really imploded when her father was arrested for some serious crimes and left the family with a mountain of debts. Amelia’s mother, who was never a fountain of reliability or stability, does nothing and leaves it up to Amelia to sort out all their problems.  

Amelia and Ben are attracted from the start, but they both have bigger things on their minds and are in no place for a relationship. Amelia wants to get out of Juniper Meadows and start fresh, Ben wants to get to know his family and also change his career. Both are struggling with the big emotions that come with their circumstances—will they have room for each other?

In From the Cold picks up where Where We Belong left off. It’s helpful but not mandatory that you read Where We Belong first, as it does provide more details on the background of the family history and Ben’s estrangement from them. The second book is not as good as the first, so if you’re choosing, I’d read Where We Belong over this one anyway.  Ben’s character is my favorite—a genuinely nice person struggling with a complete shock in his life but handling it beautifully. Yes, he feels anger toward his mother and jealousy of other family members, but also realizes he could be bitter but he could also allow the warmth and love of his family into his life.

I did find the estrangement a little unbelievable—you’ll have to read for details, but it really seemed like Ben’s mom could have done more to track him down and see what he really wanted, knowing that his dad was a lying, abusive a**hole.  I also wasn’t really feeling it with Amelia and Ben; something was just missing there. Still, I’m glad I read the book and enjoyed the series.

Rating: 3
Steam: None
Themes and Tropes: Family relationships, Small town, Secrets
Pair With: Still British Craft Gin

Busy trying to feed her family, fisherman’s daughter Poppy finds an injured—and very handsome—stranger on the beach. Andrew, Duke of Hawking, was nearly killed and decides the best way to identify his assailant is to hide and let the man assume he’s dead.

Andrew convinces Poppy to hide him and feed him, and makes an offer she can’t refuse. As they work together to figure out who would want Andrew dead, he can’t help finding her spirit enchanting. Meanwhile, she’s drawn to his goodness and protectiveness (and hotness of course).

One Duke Down drew me in from the beginning, which doesn’t always happen in a Regency romance. Andrew is kind and respectful—he could have been your standard snotty duke but he treats Poppy with respect and truly cares about her. Poppy is resilient and kindhearted, but very distrustful of the peerage (with good reason)—she’s more resistant to their match than he is. Loved reading about a non-debutante and non-high society heroine for a change, with some murder mystery thrown in!

Rating: 4
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Forbidden Love, Class Differences, Secret Identity, Murder Mystery
Pair With: Coastal English wines, such as Gusbourne Brut Reserve ($66), Chapel Down wines ($40-$70). English wines available in the U.S. aren’t cheap, so if you’re looking for something more budget-friendly, think about other whites and roses like Kirkland Signature if you’re a Costco shopper, Grey Rock Sauvignon Blanc Reserve ($17), or Dune Gris Rosé ($12).

Emma Rutledge knows her way around a winery and the wine business—she should, since her family owns a successful and renowned winery—and has worked hard for a larger role in the company. Her dear old (major asshole and sexist pig) dad does everything he can to block her path, including making her dirtbag ex-husband her boss. So she’ll take matters into her own hands and find a way to start her own winery.

Giovanni D’Angelo knows his way around wine; he’s a talented sommelier and also plays a huge role in his family’s successful restaurant. But he wants more—his own vineyard to be exact. He meets Emma on a Tuscan wine tour and there’s some instant chemistry; first friendship and then who knows…

Maybe it’s the Italian countryside, the beautiful descriptions of Temecula, or the smart and interesting characters, but Beginning of Forever drew me right in and was captivating the whole way through. Emma’s family mostly sucked—especially her dad, and her mom for just rolling over until the end—but some of them came through in the end. It would have been nice for her dad to have one or two redeeming qualities, but I can live with that.

Emma and Giovanni’s character development was perfect—you see Emma going from a capable and hard-working but somewhat uncertain businessperson to someone who’ll walk into an intimidating room, confront her father, and move her business forward despite his assholery. Gio goes from a cheesy ladies man to a loving and supportive partner; you can see how much he cares and wants to protect her without being overbearing or controlling. 

Beginning of Forever is the third book in the series, but the first one I read, and you definitely don’t need to read the others to enjoy it. 

Rating: 4.5
Steam: Low to Medium
Themes and Tropes: Travel, Wine, Different Backgrounds
Pair with: Wine from Temecula Valley, CA; consider Foot Path Winery, known for its natural wines; Peltzer Winery; Mount Palomar, Avensole, Robert Renzoni, Oak Mountain, or Palumbo.

Salena and Ryan each live life on their own terms and crave the independence to make their own choices. Neither expects to marry or be tied down and both have suffered from their parents’ expectations. When they first meet, the attraction is instant, and then a friends-with-benefits arrangement seems perfect. For now.

Salena needs money—she’s never been one for saving and her ancient car finally kicks the bucket. But her restaurant manager salary won’t get her there and she’s not accepting handouts, especially from Ryan. She finds a way to make some extra bucks but knows her family and Ryan would likely have a major problem with it.

Overall, really liked it, but it didn’t blow me away.  I’ve read the whole series and love the D’Angelos, a close-knit Italian family where they always have each other’s backs and also give each other a hard time. It’s fun to watch Salena and Ryan’s relationship unfold and grow—she’s never been anyone’s girlfriend and he’s never been much for commitment, but it feels right between them from the beginning. They’re honest about their feelings for each other and what they want (even if maybe they’re keeping some things from each other), and there’s no immature drama between them. But this one just wasn’t as good as the others in the series.

Rating: 3.9
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Friends With Benefits, Secrets, Close Family, Independence
Pair With: Wine from Temecula Valley, CA; consider Foot Path Winery, known for its natural wines; Peltzer Winery; Mount Palomar, Avensole, Robert Renzoni, Oak Mountain, or Palumbo.

Back in the day, Noah was a shy, awkward teen, in love with his beautiful and popular best friend, Shay, who lived with her step-grandmother at the neighboring farm in small-town Rhode Island. They went their separate ways after high school with no shortage of bitterness from Noah, who realized she was gone and his love was unrequited.

Fast forward a decade plus. Shay gets dumped at the altar by her dirtbag fiance, then discovers she inherited her step-grandmother’s farm. But, of course there’s a catch to this inheritance: she has to move to Friendship and has to be married within a year, or the land reverts to the town. Is this even legal? Will Noah oblige?

Noah is my favorite kind of romance hero – I found myself loving and rooting for him from the beginning. Sexy as hell, adopts and adores his niece, works hard, sacrifices so much in his life for his family and others he loves, protects Shay from her ex, and has loved Shay forever. The only problem is that he might be too perfect, if there is such a thing. There just isn’t anything wrong with the guy. The story drags just a bit while Noah and Shay try to figure out their feelings and how to express them. His niece is adorable and hilarious, and very relatable to people with high-energy smart-ass kids…overall, a fun, happy read.

Rating: 4
Steam: Medium to High
Themes and Tropes: Second Chance, Childhood Friends, Small Town, Kid in Plot, Fake Marriage
Pair With: Given the farmer’s market and prominent farm themes in the book, consider trying Farmer’s Market Wine Co.

Miss Evelyn “Evie” Graves is the best personal secretary in the ton; she’s organized and efficient, and also kind and thoughtful. When her employer, wealthy Lady Waverly, double-books herself, she sends Evie to Ireland in her stead to pull off a charity event.

Alex, Duke of Rennick, must marry for money–and fast–to keep his beloved Ballymore Castle from going to his despised uncle and to get the dukedom out of debt. His family hones in on Lady Waverly, believing that she’s coming for the charity event, and at first mistakes Evie for the countess. There’s instant chemistry between Evie and Alex, but they know nothing could ever work between them in the real world.

This book was super cute and had superb characters. I love how smart and competent Evie is—she comes right into Ballymore and knows exactly how to handle the charity event and how to raise more money. Sadly, she doesn’t dare to dream of bigger things like publishing her stories, and sticks glumly to practicality, while also showing her sweet and unselfish sides.

Alex also cares deeply for his family and is ready to sacrifice his own wishes for their benefit—his sister married for love and never looked back. He yearns to do the same but can’t shake the feeling of duty to the dukedom and the rest of the family. Of course, this tension sticks for a while or there’d be no story; gradually Evie and Alex admit their feelings for each other, but also must admit the obstacles are tremendous and potentially insurmountable.

Rating: 4
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Class Difference, Proximity, Instant Attraction, Fake-ish Relationship
Pair With: Irish Drinks, check out the 15 Best Irish Drinks according to the Irish Road Trip

L.A. developer Bella is bound and determined to buy a struggling small-town Christmas shop, impress her boss, and get her long-awaited promotion. But the shop owner’s grandson, Jesse, isn’t letting it go without a fight (or at least a fair price).

With the town’s Christmas Olympics coming up, they strike a deal: If Bella wins, she gets the shop for a steal; If Jesse wins, she has to pay a huge premium. Game On!

I went back and forth on The Christmas Wager. On the plus side: fun game idea and plot, good writing, funny moments, lots of good characters, sweet family times, and of course a happily-ever-after. On the minus side: Bella took way too long to figure out her boss is a complete bi*** and continues pandering to her. Likewise, what the heck is Jesse doing with the Caroline thing? She sucks, he knows they shouldn’t be together, but keeps letting her in and stringing her along.

Still, this was a fun holiday book, nicely done with dual POV, and a great audio version.

Rating: 3.5
Steam: Closed door
Themes and Tropes: Holiday/Christmas, Enemies to Lovers, Small Town, City Girl/Rural Boy, Competition, Traditions, Belonging
Pair With: Colorado Wines, Warm Winter Wines.

Sadie is a struggling portrait artist who just got her big break as a finalist in a prestigious art competition and a chance at the $10,000 prize. On her way to celebrate, she has a seizure in the middle of the street, almost dies, and then finds out she needs brain surgery. And wouldn’t you know, she gets the surgery and develops the ironic side effect of not being able to see faces. A portrait artist who can no longer paint faces…

I loved the premise and the glimpse into a brain condition I’d never heard of, and liked a few other things, but otherwise this book was not my favorite. Sadie was whiny, ridiculously self-centered, and makes dumb decisions I just couldn’t get past. Now, she definitely deserves some sympathy for what she’s dealing with even beyond the brain surgery, but come on girl, have a backbone and quit letting yourself get pushed around! And maybe just take the slightest interest in other people and what’s going on in their worlds…

I hardly even have a description for her love interest(s) since this story is told only from Sadie’s point of view.  Yes, first person books can still give us insight into the other main character, but this one just doesn’t, and there is a good reason for that, so I’ll just leave it there.

The premise could have made this book great, but it just seemed like things had to be twisted around insanely to get them to work. For the ending to come together, you had to ignore too many obvious issues, and there were too many miscommunications with too many coincidences, and it all just became too much. Add to that, the other characters were annoying—you have the 100% evil stepsister with no depth of character whatsoever, the flaky friend, and the jerk parents.

Looking at Goodreads reviews, I’m clearly an outlier here, so you may end up loving this book along with tons of other people. I’ll give it three stars because the writing is good, the premise is unique, and there were some bright spots along the way.

Rating: 3
Steam: Very low
Themes and Tropes: Love triangle-ish, medical condition
Pair With: Cheap party wine

A curse-breaker, an archaeologist, and a remote Scottish castle? I’m in!

Riley comes from a long line of curse-breakers, and she’s been working on turning her ability into a business. She catches a huge break when some Scottish developers hire her to get rid of a 300-year-old curse so they can turn the property into a resort.

Clark suffered a massive betrayal on his last archaeological project and is desperate to restore his good name and career. The same developers hire him to survey the castle and make sure there’s nothing to stand in the way of their plans. Clark immediately categorizes Riley as a con artist and dos his best to get her fired. And it’s on from there!

Of course, these personalities are going to clash from the get-go. Clark believes in provable, scientific facts—what got him into trouble before was trusting someone and not seeing the proof for himself. In no way is he letting some charlatan further ruin his career. Riley’s used to people attacking her and disbelieving everything she says. But this curse is legit and she’s going to figure it out!

They each have solid reasons for how they feel and what they’re doing, which made the book flow really well. They each acted like you’d expect them to, and they each grow along the way. As they’re forced together, they realize they might achieve their goals by collaborating rather than sabotaging each other, and they’re drawn into the history surrounding the curse. The way the characters evolve into truly seeing each other, understanding each other, and wanting to help each other was nice.

Do Your Worst is a lot of fun and a little different from your typical rom-com. The occult is there—the main issue is breaking the curse—but it’s not overwhelming and is woven in beautifully with the rest of the story. The characters are interesting and you feel like you know who they are and what makes them tick.

The best part? The third-act drama/obstacle was NOT super annoying! Without giving it away, there’s some drama but I loved how it played out and wasn’t rolling my eyes or getting super irritated. Definitely bumps up the rating.

Rating: 4
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Proximity, Enemies to Lovers, Occult/Supernatural, Scottish Castle
Pair With: Scotch (not my favorite, but they’re in a Scottish castle and Riley knows a lot about scotch). Here are some options from W&J Wine and The Scotsman

Billie is a thrice-married, hilarious, and wacky woman who finds herself in a bit of a love triangle while also juggling her in-demand business of getting people over breakups, helping her daughter through an imploding marriage, and even managing the roommates she’s taken in. Just when a lovely widower enters her life, her slimy ex-husband jumps in and tries to win her back. If you want something with a kooky older heroine who’s a bit of a hot mess, Snap Out of It is for you! It was a lot of fun and reminded me that really, do any of us have it together or are we all faking it til we make it no matter what age we are?

Rating: 3.7
Steam: Low
Tropes: Love triangle, older characters, ex returning
Pair with: Martinis. Not really a wine crowd, but the Thursday martini nights are hilarious.

High-society Mexican Ana Maria Luna Valdes and her sisters are sent to England for safety during the French occupation to stay with their uncle. Ana Maria has always been the good girl and always under her powerful father’s thumb. Finally has some freedom with her more liberal uncle, and also finally has the chance to bond with her sisters; she’s going to take advantage of it while also trying to paint Mexico in a positive light for the British.

Gideon Fox came from nothing and is now a powerful politician who hasn’t lost his values or the causes he supports. As the grandson of a former slave, he’s devoted his career to stopping the Atlantic Slave Trade. Ana Maria and Gideon are instantly drawn to each other but keep their distance—he can’t risk his political goals and she’s engaged (loveless arranged marriage, but still) and can’t risk being sent home or embarrassing her family. When circumstances force his hand, he offers it to her (purely to protect her of course, not because he wants her…).

I loved both main characters for the most part—flawed but genuinely good people, and the author’s character development adds some depth and makes me feel like I know who these people are and what makes them tick. It was also nice to see real issues—the slave trade and racism for example—in a Regency romance. It was fun to see English society from another perspective, and the adventure side of the story is fun too!

Rating: 4
Steam: Low to Medium
Themes and Tropes: Forbidden Love, Slow Burn, Marriage of Convenience; Sisters
Pair With: A Mexican wine, such as Casa Madero 3V Red Blend, Bodegas Henri Lurton Chenin Blanc, or L.A. Cetto Nebbiolo.

Well Traveled = quirkiness, fun, adventure, and hilarious characters with some romance too! 

Tough-as-nails lawyer Louisa spends her life working and stressing at a good old boys’ law firm that’s never going to acknowledge her worth, and she’s finally had it. The final straw comes while she’s actually trying to enjoy a break at a local Renaissance faire. Luckily, her sweet cousin introduces her to the faire’s fantastic traveling band, the Dueling Kilts, and they welcome Louisa—now Lulu to adapt to her new freedom—her into their lives and let her tag along for a little while.

Dex is the playboy of the band who has a different woman at every stop and doesn’t take love seriously. He notices that Lulu’s different from the women he knows, most of all because she’s not falling for his charms and has clearly friend-zoned him. Or has she?

As they’re cooped up together, Lulu sees parts of Dex he hides from the world and realizes there’s more to him than a happy-go-lucky hottie. And why not have a summer traveling fling with a hottie she’s also starting to like. But she has to remember there’s an expiration date.

Well Traveled was super cute and lots of fun! I liked it way more than I thought I would, and loved the Renaissance faire settings and all the characters. The author revealed bits of Dex and Lulu at a time and let us get to know them as they were getting to know each other. Type-A Lulu adapted to the faire scene and found a niche for her skills and personality, and Dex really came alive with Lulu and the rest of the group as the summer went on.

Rating: 4
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Opposites Attract, Proximity, Musician, Road Trip
Pair With: Renaissance Faire fare. Consider Renaissance Vineyard and Winery

In 1360 England, Penn and Lily’s powerful families are forcing a marriage neither wants. Penn finds a way to escape the keep into the nearby woods, and of course the alarm bells sound and the woods swarm with people looking for him. Lily’s brother Raff, who’s known for tracking and survival abilities, is among them. And he finds him, but mistakes him as a servant. Penn, who also has no idea who Raff is, begs him to take him along to freedom.

The two men travel quietly together, and the road trip is the heart of the story. Each had been seeking freedom and solitude, but then realize it’s easy to be around each other and start truly enjoying the company. And each is hoping the other feels the same way, but there’s much uncertainty and doubt.

Yes, this part of the story can get a little slow, but these characters needed the time and pages for the relationship to really build and grow. The journey illustrates the growing tenderness, depth of feelings, and personalities to shine. So I can’t complain too much about that.

The combination of feeling the characters’ sweetness, guessing when and how the secrets would come out, and wondering how the author would resolve all the conflicts really sold One Night in Hartswood for me. The resolution was clever, though really I just loved following these two genuinely good people and seeing them end up happy.

Rating: 4
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Secret Identity, LGBTQ+, Road Trip, Forbidden Love
Pair With: Wines from Seneca Shore Wine Cellars, Medieval Wines of the Finger Lakes

Lies and Other Love Languages follows three women: Mallika, a young and aspiring choreographer; her mom Vandy, a hugely successful advice columnist and personality; and Vandy’s long-lost best friend, Rani, who moved back to India. Mallika and Vandy deeply feel the loss of Mallika’s dad and Vandy’s husband, Vir, but deal with it in different ways.

Mallika feels even more different than usual from her family, and when presented spur-of-the-moment with a chance to participate in a genetic study, she jumps on it, not realizing the old and new wounds she’s opening up and the long and emotional history of deception in the family.

Loved this book! The emotions and love and other feelings are woven masterfully through the story, from Vandy and Rani’s friendship growing and shattering, the palpable love and closeness among all the characters, the heartbreaking reasons for the deceptions, and the unexpected feelings that arise. The characters are so well-written—all human and flawed, but with so many redeeming qualities as well and so much love for each other. Same with the family dynamics—the tension and pressure of familial expectations tempered with some laughs and unconditional love too.

The triple timeline is a little tough at times—there’s the present from Vandy’s perspective in third person, events the week before the present from Mallika’s perspective in first person, and the past from Rani and Vandy’s childhood meeting through Mallika’s birth from Rani’s perspective in third person. At first, I was kind of annoyed but it ended up working really well and made the story better than it would have been with a straightforward chronology. Details and answers to questions come out at the perfect times; you learn just enough to keep you going and anticipate whatever is coming next.

Rating: 4.5
Steam: None (more fiction than romance)
Themes and Tropes: Family Secrets, Multiple Storylines, Deception
Pair With: Wine from Naidu Wines, owned by Raghni Naidi, a woman who is originally from India.

Childhood friends and enemies Indira and Jude are thrown together for her brother and his best friend, Collin’s, wedding to Jeremy, in The Plus One.

Jude spent the past few years as a doctor in war zones and other humanitarian disasters, doing what he can to help people and becoming horrifically traumatized in his efforts. Now that he’s back home for several weeks, he struggles just to pretend to be normal and is triggered by large groups and noise.

Indira walked in on her dirtbag boyfriend with another woman and promptly moved out—and into Collin and Jeremy’s place where, of course, Jude is staying. And the dirtbag boyfriend is Jeremy’s cousin and part of the wedding, so there will be a lot of togetherness for weeks on end.

So Indira and Jude strike a fake relationship deal—she needs a fake boyfriend as a buffer against her ex and his new GF; he needs an excuse to slip away from the noise. A touch here, some fake PDA there, and suddenly it’s not so fake.

I loved how this book explored some darker issues without getting too dark. Jude’s PTSD from what he’s seen, the guilt he feels for the lives he couldn’t save, and his supervisors’ suspicion and efforts to discredit him were haunting and real. It worked well that psychiatrist Indira was there for him—although he didn’t want her treating him like a patient. And Indira’s own mental health was a focus, with visits to her own therapist and coming to terms with the concept that she doesn’t need to be perfect to serve her patients well. All in all, a moving book that was still fun and had some hilarious moments too.

Rating:4
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Childhood Enemies/Friends, Fake Relationship, Proximity, Enemies to Lovers
Pair With: Your favorite Champagne. For a highly rated sparkling wine at a reasonable price point, consider Levert Cremant De Borgogne Brut Sparkling Wine.

Every Duke Has His Day might be my favorite Suzanne Enoch book—loved Michael and Bitsy, but I think the dogs are what did it for me! The season’s diamond, Bitsy, adores her ill-behaved poodle Galahad, much to the chagrin of her most ardent suitor (and slimeball), Peter.

Eccentric scientist and duke Michael—who has never fit in with society—reluctantly looks after his aunt’s poodle, Lancelot. After a mishap in the park, the dogs go home with the wrong owners but before they can switch back, there’s a dog-napping, throwing Michael and Bitsy together to solve the mystery. Hilarity ensues and they are each surprised at how much they enjoy the other’s company.

Every Duke Has His Day is a fun and original book in the crowded English historical romance category—there’s only so much anyone can do anymore with these, but Suzanne Enoch found a bit of uniqueness here. Bitsy is no shrinking violet, though I do wish she’d put Peter in his place from the beginning. Michael is quirky and direct, and slowly admits to Bitsy (and himself) how much he likes her.

I loved that they had an activity and a goal, rather than just the standard nonsense of balls and house parties, and that they worked together to solve it. Even the parts with the dog-napper were funny and added to the story.

Rating: 4.5
Steam: None
Themes and Tropes: Opposites Attract, Proximity, Mystery
Pair with: Dog-related wines and labels that support canine causes, such as Rescue Dog Wines (50% of profits to rescue organizations). You can also take a look at Wine Enthusiast’s article on the subject. 

A female engineer determined to build her own firm, a protective and loving man, a second-chance romance...

Brilliant engineer Margaret Gault returns to London from France after being snubbed for a business opportunity, determined to establish her own firm in spite of the powerful misogynists. Of course she runs into her childhood love and the man who broke her heart, Earl Grantham, at every turn. 

Grantham wants to win her back and will stop at nothing to do so, even though she’s working for his archnemesis (who cannot be trusted). Still, his charm starts winning her over and their love rekindles, but it’s never that easy, right? 

Margaret constantly has to deal with the jerks and some serious danger, as well as losing her heart–again–to the man who broke it. There are some fun surprises, especially with Grantham, and he turns out to be the best kind of hero and a loving man who yearns to be better. 

Rating: 3.5
Steam: Low to Medium
Themes and Tropes: Second Chance, Female Engineer, Childhood Love, Danger/Mystery
Pair With: Wines from Women-Owned Wineries

David and Noah have been best friends since boarding school, and find themselves in London together, where David runs an underground queer club and Noah is a talented up-and-coming tailor. Noah’s always had a loving family, while David has been on his own ever since his father disgraced the family. Protective by nature, David tries to find a solution for his employees when the slimy peer who owns the club decides to close it, but he’s in over his head. Now, Noah wants to protect David too.

This book really grew on me! I liked it from the beginning, but loved it by the end. David and Noah are very different people but equally devoted to each other. The book has some of the normal romance pieces but doesn’t completely follow the formula—in a good way. Noah and David are united by the problems they’re facing rather than torn apart, and it makes the story so much better!

The personalities are fun and interesting, and you really know who each character is and what makes him tick. It’s unique—which is really hard to do with 1800s England—and a really fun, enjoyable read.

Rating: 4.5
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Childhood friends/sweethearts, Forbidden Love, LGBTQIA, Opposites Attract
Pair With: English wine

Shy and awkward Lily constantly feels overshadowed by her super successful sisters and difficult parents. She needs a date for her sister’s wedding so they’ll get off her back and stop trying to set her up, so she enlists hot and charismatic neighbor Nick to help her find one. Little does she know he’s the fantasy author she emailed with for months until he completely ghosted her. They hit the friend zone as neighbors but eventually realize they want more.

The Neighbor Favor was really cute in some parts and annoying in others. The email exchanges were adorable and some of the sweet moments are warm and delightful. Parts of it really drag and go in circles, particularly with Nick getting closer to Lily and then pushing her away, and not telling her who he really is. That really went on too long. The character growth shows up too, with Lily growing a backbone by the end of the book and Nick realizing what’s important and stopping his ridiculousness.  

Rating: 3.8
Steam: Low to Medium
Tropes: Letters/Emails, secret identity, lessons, meddling family
Pair with: Wines from New York vineyards such as Ravines, Lieb Cellars, and Red Tail Ridge. Or better yet, if you find yourself in NYC, pop into one of so many wine bars. Check out Wine Bars in NYC: Best of the Best Around the City.

Songwriter Tabitha can work from anywhere, so she travels around the world pet-sitting in exotic locations, hoping to fix her broken heart and learn to live again.

Her latest gig is a month at a stunning Madeira villa, where she can be at peace to write songs and walk dogs through the beautiful countryside. Enter Raff, the estranged son of the villa’s owners, who is Tabitha’s age and hot. He’s had his troubles growing up with parents who saw him only as a disappointment, and figures he’ll enjoy the house while they’re gone—but has no idea Tabitha will be there. . . .

Raff isn’t the most endearing character at the beginning, but grew on me after a while once I started to see where he was coming from. Tabitha was very likeable even though she had her moments of overstepping and trying to dictate Raff’s choices. It was fun to see them growing together on a real up-and-down trajectory, both of them trying to figure themselves out and navigate a relationship. It felt real—happy at times, frustrating at other times, and a nice, easy read.

Rating: 4
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Escapist, Close Proximity, Family Issues
Pair With: Madeira Wine. I’ve only ever cooked with Madeira, so I’m curious to try some Madeira to drink. This article on Drinks Geek is a great starting point. 

In Game On, professional consultant Samara moonlights as a high-profile gaming influencer. When she calls out Artemis games online for obvious racism and sexism in a popular game, she gets the internet’s—and CEO Aron’s—attention. In a good way. He’s your classic guy that wants to do better with diversity and inclusion but needs to be hit over the head with how it affects more marginalized groups.

Aron seeks Samara out at a gaming convention and eventually offers her a job to improve the diversity in Artemis’ games and help get Artemis certified as inclusive of autistic and other neurodivergent gamers. It’s near and dear to his heart because his brother, Benji, is a nonverbal autistic gamer.

So they start working together and sparks fly, but they’re able to keep things professional for a while. Aron’s a methodical thinker and Samara’s gun-shy about getting involved with him. It’s a romance, so you know they get together and you’ll see how it goes.

I liked Game On much more than I thought I would. I’m not a gamer and don’t know much about video games, and while the book is about a gaming business, it’s really much more broadly about online communities, internet backlash, and media coverage that could apply to any high-profile industry.

LOVED Samara—she’s smart, confident, unapologetic, brave, loving, cares deeply for her family and friends, and is always true to herself. I liked Aron a lot too—he’s also caring, honest, bright, and interesting. His forthright nature is a huge winner; no game-playing.

Something that struck me as odd in Game On was how the author handled the autism. Aron obviously knows a lot about autism because of his autistic brother and wants more inclusion in his games for his brother’s sake, but he also displays some of the signs of being on the autism spectrum (avoids touching others, aversion to certain kinds of social situations, needs more than the usual amount of social support, doesn’t understand some emotions and interactions). It seems like this should have come up but never did.

The third-act breakup seemed really inconsistent with the character and relationship development throughout the book. I’m not going any further with spoilers, but we can vent together if you felt the same way and want to discuss!

Still, Game On is a strong book with interesting and resilient characters, a (mostly) honest, adult relationship, and realistic but fun themes.

P.S. Audio version (Keylor Leigh) was great. Smooth voice, able to distinguish among the characters, nice inflection and tone.

Rating: 4
Steam: Low to Medium
Themes and Tropes: Workplace/professionals, Online Behavior, Enemies(ish) to Lovers
Pair With: Georgia Wines

Dragged to the Wedding by Andrew Grey is HILARIOUS. Even when books are funny, I don’t usually laugh out loud while I’m reading them. This book is the exception. It broaches some serious topics, but really the book is all about fun while making sure we’re aware that people often go through not-fun experiences.

James—who’s gay—just wants to get through his sister’s wedding without causing waves in his conservative family. Particularly with his dictatorial and narrow-minded mother. So he lines up Daniel—aka Lala Traviata—a gorgeous drag queen to pose as Daniela, his lovely, straight girlfriend. He figures it’s easier to fake a girlfriend for a week than actually stand up to his mom and just tell her he’s gay.

Of course, it’s a fiasco from the start. Crazy things go wrong, and who solves most of the problems (some of which mommy dearest caused)? Daniel. There are so many funny storylines—the reverend, the family issues, the growing feelings and affection—that all culminate in a perfect ending for this book.

A few things would have been nice. More dimension to the side characters, for one. Stereotypes abound: James’ mom is the classic domineering conservative woman who thinks she can cure James being gay. James’ dad is the husband who lets his wife walk all over him and doesn’t say much of consequence. Weston is the complete jerk best man with absolutely zero redeeming qualities. James’ sisters are fine, but bland.

This book isn’t designed to be earth-shattering and deeply serious—it’s a rom-com. Would a little more depth—especially on James’ experience as a gay cop—have been nice? Sure. But if you want a soul-searching and somber take on LGBTQIA+ issues, look elsewhere. There are some really meaningful moments and statements about gay kids coming out to their families, especially in a non-accepting environment, but the book doesn’t dwell on it.

I’m here for hilarity, development of James and Daniel’s relationship, and quirkiness. And, bonus, it’s a pretty quick read/listen. I did the audio version, and Joel Leslie does a great job. With some of the longer audiobooks, I can’t wait for them to finish, but Dragged to the Wedding could have gone on much longer!

Rating: 4.5
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: LGBTQIA+, Fake Relationship, Meddling Family, Wedding
Pair With: AZ Hops and Wines Drag Queen variety, which is “2022 Malvasia co-fermented with cascade hops… a beer dressed up as a wine!” Also, check out this post on DiVino: Glasss, Queen! 8 Wine and Drag Queen Pairings

Proudly advertised as a Gen X Romance, Come As You Are rocks the Gen X nostalgia, pop culture, and feel (and is a great read too)! 

Ashley’s family has run the Bluebird Mountain ski hill for generations, but it’s fallen on hard times with the fancy new resort down the street with more amenities and Ashley’s dirtbag ex-husband trying to run her out of business.

Matthew is an ex-grunge rocker and recovering addict who runs a sober living program and dedicates himself to helping others beat addiction. Ashley needs employees for her ski season and Matthew’s charges need jobs, so it seems like a perfect fit, even if it’s a risk. But will Ashley and Matthew be able to keep it professional?

Come as You Are really spoke to my GenX heart! Grunge music and culture, mix tapes, movie references, yes please! The characters grew on me too—I didn’t love them at first but after a while I was all in. It was nice to see some different subjects too; you don’t often see romances cover recovery from addiction and issues surrounding it, but this book did a nice job.

If you’re looking for more Gen X books, check out Romance Books After My Gen X Heart

Rating: 4
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Small Town, GenX, Addiction and Recovery, Proximity
Pair WithNon-Alcoholic Wines

A notorious pirate who's also a spy + a sexy smuggler and duke = scalding chemistry and adventure

Loved it! Mainly because the two main characters are so sexy together and have the best chemistry. Though at the beginning, it’s hard to see how they’d ever find a happily ever after–two very determined, individualistic people with crazy lives not really screaming “settle down.”

Lisbeth is a former English countess and current American spy tracking dangerous smugglers and pirates, one monstrous man in particular. She never lets anyone close and becomes a notorious female pirate captain, known and feared everywhere. But then she meets Raphael (and it still takes the walls a LONG time to even think about coming down).

Raphael is a hot, hot disgraced French duke and owner of a (mostly legit) shipping company, but also becomes a pirate of sorts, seeking revenge on the same dangerous monster as Lisbeth. Who also happens to be his murderous uncle.

Both Lisbeth and Raphael keep secrets, understandable to a certain point, but it gets to be a little ridiculous toward the end.

If you want white hot chemistry and a spy/thriller historical romance, this is definitely for you!

Rating: 4.5
Steam: Medium to High
Themes and Tropes: Secret Identity, Other Secrets, Undercover Agent, Revenge, Piercings, Proximity
Pair With: La Sirena TreasuRed.

I’ve been waiting for Vesper’s story! She was easily my favorite character from the first book in the series (Always Be my Duchess), but you don’t need to read the first one to enjoy Never Met a Duke Like You.

Lady Vesper is all about propriety on the outside. So much so that she keeps her substantial charitable activities under wraps, as well as any true feelings she might have for Aspen, Duke of Greydon and her best childhood friend turned enemy. She’s strong-willed with a heart of gold and maybe some annoying decisions.

Reeling from his mother’s betrayal and coldheartedness, Aspen gets out of England and onto dinosaur excavations in America. He returns only when he hears mummy dearest wants to have him declared dead to get more control of the dukedom. And he’s determined to find evidence that will make her pay for her heartbreaking actions toward his father (she had him fraudulently committed to an asylum—yikes).

Misunderstandings from their late teens cause Vesper and Aspen to put on armor against each other. Each misjudges the other, but as the story unfolds, they make new discoveries and rely on each other.

Overall, I really loved the book—high points were the development of the relationships, Vesper’s wit and care for others, Aspen’s commitment to finding out the truth about his mother’s fraud, and just the funny dinner scenes and similar events.

One major low point: the third-act obstacle almost ruined the book. I won’t say any more on that. I would have easily given it a 4+ but I can’t with the end. Otherwise, really great book.

Rating: 4
Steam: Low to Medium
Themes and Tropes: Childhood Friends, Enemies to Lovers, Villainous Mother, Miscommunication
Pair With: Vesper Fine Wines

A brilliant scientific heroine, a bitter hero, runaway passion, and mystery all in one place...

Olivia Norley is determined to make it as a scientist even in male-dominated and chauvinistic historical England. So, when she’s hired to figure out whether someone poisoned a duke with arsenic, she knows it could make her career. And, she will not allow Thorn, the overbearing Duke of Thornstock, to obstruct her path. Even if she can’t forget their once-upon-a-time hot kiss and scandalous blackmail scheme…

But someone else clearly doesn’t want Olivia to find the truth, and Thorn is thrown into the role of protector even as chemistry and passion explodes around them. 

The third in the Duke Dynasty series, Who Wants to Marry a Duke brings passion, fun writing, and witty banter. And an historical scientist heroine always captivates me, especially when she possesses Olivia’s determination and intelligence. The murder/whodunit mystery continues throughout the series, and it’s a good one! But, on the annoying side, Olivia forgives way too easily (or maybe I’m just too much of a grudge-holder). 

I’d recommend reading the books in order, but you could still enjoy Who Wants to Marry a Duke on its own. 

Rating: 3.5
Steam: Medium 
Themes and Tropes: Second Chance, STEM, Mystery, Reformed Rake
Pair With: Historical Wines. 

Sasha and Finn, two strangers suffering from massive burnout at their jobs, find themselves thrown together at a crumbling British seaside hotel. Both recall its grandeur from their childhoods and decide it might be the best place to take a break, find some peace, and enjoy the nostalgia.

Only Sasha finds Finn rude and off-putting while he finds her high-maintenance and snotty. What a beginning . . . but they start finding strange messages on the beach and unwittingly start puzzling them out together. The more they’re together, the more they are forced to question their assumptions and confront their feelings for each other and what they want out of their lives.

So many things to say about The Burnout. First, it was hilarious. Sophie Kinsella has such a witty and fun sense of humor, and I found myself laughing and often reliving certain situations, and picturing them perfectly. From Sasha running away from the nun and the god-awful happiness committee woman from her job to the embarrassing scene in the food shop (you’ll just have to read), this book had so many funny moments.

Second, the characters were such fun even if a bit ridiculous. The personality and banter among all of the characters—hotel staff, other guests, the surf instructor—kept the book light but also provided enough that you felt like you really knew them and you’d definitely want to stay at this hotel.  

Third, it was off-balance for me in terms of focusing too much on one character, Sasha. There’s just not enough insight into Finn. Part of that is the natural effect of single-perspective first person. Everything is from Sasha’s point of view and there’s little effort to really understand where Finn is coming from, how he feels, what’s going on with him. The author could have developed his character more and made it a richer story, but I really can’t complain too much.  

Rating: 4
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Questioning Assumptions, Corporate Burnout, Proximity, Escape
Pair With: Champagne on the beach (even in winter in England…). Check out Bubble & Flute’s post about top beach champagnes.

“Aline,” he whispered, mercilessly divesting himself of all pride, “I’m afraid of what I’ll become if you won’t have me.”

Doomed from the start, stable boy McKenna and earl’s daughter Aline can’t ignore their love and swear they will be together. Until daddy finds out, and the only way to save McKenna’s life is for Aline to persuade him never to return, leaving them both heartbroken.

But McKenna does come back, if only to avenge his broken heart and show Aline all the success he’s earned in New York. However, there’s no denying the passion and love, even with Aline determined to keep a deep, dark secret. 

Again the Magic was love-hate for me. I loved the emotion, the burning love and passion you can feel on every page, the tension, the care these characters have. I hated the secret–it was something that you’d share with someone you love and who loves you. Way too ridiculous to be a central plotline and reason for keeping the characters apart. 

As always with Lisa Kleypas, she developed the characters masterfully, not just Aline and McKenna, but the side characters too. And as the first Wallflowers book, you get going on what is one of my favorite romance series. 

Rating: 3.8
Steam: Medium to High
Themes and Tropes: Childhood Love, Second Chance, Vengeance, Secrets, Forbidden Love
Pair With: Forbidden Vines Wine.

Finally, travel Willa and Dom's winding path to to second-chance romance and happily ever after!

Oh, I waited and waited for A Rogue’s Rules for Seduction as soon as I finished its predecessor in the Last Chance Scoundrels series, and it was worth it! I wondered for the past two books how Willa would ever take Dom back after he left her at the altar. Unforgivable. There’s just no way, right? Again, I’m a major grudge-holder, so there’s that.

So of course someone had to force them into close proximity! Their siblings and friends trick them into a house party on a remote, inescapable island, and hope love will help them move past the hurt and back to the altar. And of course, they are NOT happy about it. 

Dom knows this is the best chance he’ll ever have of winning Willa back, even though he knows he doesn’t deserve her. And grovel he must. But they are so naturally good together, from just having fun at house party games to being stuck in a small cabin with a single bed. 

The slow burning and time together goes on for a while, and then, BAM, you’re hit over the head for the rest of the book with steam and heat. 

Circling back, yes, by the end I could be happy they’re together and see the reasons everything fell apart in the first place. Convincing me would be tough, and Eva Leigh did it, so this book deserves a high rating. 

P.S. Audio version, Mary Jane Wells, was top-notch. 

Rating: 4.5
Steam: High
Tropes: Second Chance, Close Proximity, Family Involved
Pair With: Lots of your favorite wine. 

In It Had to Be a Duke, near-spinster Verity has had it with her horrible snob of a neighbor (whom she aptly refers to as “the Tick”). The Tick seems to live for insulting and undermining Verity at every turn. When she pushes Verity’s last button, Verity snaps and fibs that she’s betrothed to Magnus, the Duke of Longhurst, who happens to despise her family. And who also happens to be courting an heiress (whose dad is none to pleased to hear a rumor that Magnus is already betrothed).

Of course, when Magnus shows up to correct the falsehood, all hell breaks loose, the village is aflutter, and nothing is as simple as he thought.

It Had to Be a Duke is entertaining and fun, if a little absurd. This is a book purely to read for fun—there’s little depth and not much character development. Verity is good-natured and kind, but also ridiculous and not the wisest decisionmaker. I loved her at times and cringed for her/rolled my eyes at her at times. Magnus is rude, self-righteous, and judgey, and just awful to Verity (I understand to a certain point—I’d be a little vexed if a family enemy claimed to be my fiancé—but blechh, he’s a jerk). Luckily, he improves. Eventually.

Verity and Magnus’ relationship stays as-is for way too long—they hate each other, keep hating each other, get weird feelings here and there, and continue acting the same. It gets better when they slowly start realizing their attraction, and more, but they know nothing can come of it. And there are plenty of funny moments along the way.

Ok, some complaining out of the way, so what were the high points, in addition to the general fun? Enjoy a good side plot and a mystery about the reason the families became enemies in the first place, and all is not what it seems (there has to be a way to tie up all the loose ends and pave the way for the HEA, right?). Karma finds the Tick (sort of). Verity’s family is funny and loving; Magnus’ grandmother is formidable but understanding and lovely, and sees what’s between them.

Overall—fun, glad I read it, would recommend for a light read. Also, thumbs up for the audiobook narrator, Faye Adele. She was easy to listen to and did a nice job changing up her voice for the different characters.

Rating: 3.5
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Enemies to Lovers, Fake Betrothal, Mystery Subplot, Grumpy/Sunshine
Pair WithWines enjoyed in the Regency period.

Love masquerading as hate, passion simmering. Can they give it a second chance?

My favorite Vivienne Lorret book, When a Marquess Loves a Woman is the ultimate second-chance romance, with enemies-to-lovers passion brewing from years of separation after a complete disaster (and two books’ worth of a setup for the main characters to get together). 

Max and Juliet each blame the other for that disaster. Five years ago, after being discovered together, Max proposed to Juliet, the love of his life, even though he had little to offer. But the next day, Juliet was whisked away to marry an old, despicable, and wealthy lord. Max was left heartbroken and Juliet was left to the mercy of her disgusting husband. 

Now they’re back in town together, with Juliet a widow and Max still unmarried. And at each other’s throats. But how long will that last? 

LOVED it. So much passion beneath the surface. So much love between the characters. So much pining, heartbreak, and desire. Plus witty banter, surprises, a hilarious wager, and interesting side characters. A win all the way around. 

Rating: 4.5
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Second Chance, Enemies to Lovers, Misunderstanding
Pair with: Regency Wines.  

What happens when two bitter enemies must compete to save their beloved hotel and the colleagues they see as family? Hijinks, subterfuge, and . . . love?

The Wake-Up Call jumps right in with the source of the enmity: Izzy confesses her feelings for Lucas in a Christmas card, then sees him kissing her bit**y roommate under the mistletoe. Since then, it’s game on and let the hatred flow.

The following Christmas, everyone learns the hotel is in deep trouble and needs an influx of cash. After they get a fat reward for returning a lost wedding ring, Izzy and Lucas work to track down other rings’ owners in hopes of similar windfalls. As they’re forced to collaborate, work the front desk together, and find ways to keep the hotel afloat, they’re also forced to confront some complicated and uncomfortable feelings, and everything that happened the previous year.

I was really looking forward to The Wake-Up Call with how much I loved The Flatshare and liked The Road Trip. I enjoyed the book for the most part—the buildup of the relationship and how each character starts realizing feelings for the other, the humor in the hotel family, and the side stories. But the miscommunication dragged on way too long, making the story go around in circles.

The character growth was lopsided for a while. Lucas’ growth and self-awareness was the best part; he knows he’s closed off and has always been afraid to let others see the real him but learns something about openness from Izzy: “It’s an uncomfortable realisation. I don’t like to share personal matters with anybody–it’s not how I was raised. But I don’t want to be that way. I would like some of Izzy’s openness. I would like to believe that I can let a person see me, and that once they have, they might think more of me, not less.”

But Izzy takes forever and a day to learn anything and really needs to inch toward emotional availability sooner in the plotline, especially as Lucas tries to open up to her.  

Still, a fun and entertaining book that I’m glad I read! I love Beth O’Leary’s style and will keep reading her books for sure. 

Rating: 3.5
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Miscommunication, Enemies to Lovers, Workplace, Proximity
Pair With: Christmas drinks, red wines to keep you warm in the winter. 

Tired of her famous and overbearing father, chef Tatum Elliott moves across the country to manage catering at Stonebrook Farm, where former culinary rival Lennox Hawthorne runs a wildly successful legit farm-to-table restaurant.

Lennox always resented how everything was just handed to Tatum because of her father, and Tatum knows it but respects that he never kissed her ass like everyone else did. They notice each other’s hotness from the start but then really start to see each other.

This is my favorite so far of the Hawthorne Brothers series. It’s told so skillfully, the characters are interesting and relatable people, and you can feel their chemistry without all the bedroom scenes. Once they figure out they like each other, they really build each other up and both grow as a result.

Rating: 4
Steam: None
Tropes: Enemies to lovers, small town, close family, forced proximity
Pair with: Try Fowles Farm to Table wines, including Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay, all around $20/bottle.

The fourth in the Hawthorne Family series, How to Kiss a Movie Star is adorable and up there with How to Kiss Your Enemy as my favorite in the series! It’s a classic heroine who knows nothing about celebrities meets People’s Sexiest Man Alive.

Wildlife biologist Audrey wants nothing more than to study the rare squirrels on celebrity actor Flint’s North Carolina forest land. She has no clue who he is or that he even owns the property until Flint’s security team drags her up to the house under threat of arrest.

Even in her bulky outdoor gear, Flint instantly finds her attractive and takes a liking to her. He’s fine with her using his land for her research as long as she stays away from the house. But, really, he doesn’t want her staying away. And when his Hollywood world is spinning and he needs a fake girlfriend, who better than the woman he’d like to be his real girlfriend?

The book was super cute, as most of Jenny Proctor’s are—chemistry, lightness, fun, and nothing graphic. She does a fantastic job of making the characters seem like real people, turning a Hollywood actor into a normal guy, and expanding beyond just Audrey and Flint. The rest of the characters keep up some fun banter and add to the story. It is a little cheesy and a little too good to be true, but that’s a rom-com, right?

Rating: 4
Steam: None
Themes and Tropes: Scientist Heroine, Celebrity/Actor, Fake Relationship
Pair With: Wineries focused on sustainability, such as Flowers Vineyard and Winery, Matthiasson, and Benzinger Family Winery.

Smart, savvy, and always underestimated Arab-American Raya Darwish arrives in England to visit her cousin. Instead finds out she inherited a crumbling castle from said cousin, the late dowager Duchess of Strickland. What? The Duke of Strickland (cousin’s stepson) is even more dumbfounded, as he expected to inherit the castle and restore it to its former glory.

So Raya and Strick must work together to save the castle and estate from financial ruin. Raya ran a highly successful factory business in the U.S., yet everyone here thumbs their noses at her and discounts her abilities. She’s also seen as a crass American who doesn’t understand seemliness. But since she owns the castle, they can eff off and let her find ways to make a profit.

Raya and Strick’s bickering and bantering can only lead to one place in a romance, right? And lead there it does—their desire is raging and there is some serious hate-sex going on! While that’s all well and super hot, more of an emotional connection amid the banter would have been nice.

While I really liked The Duke Gets Desperate, the biggest issue I have is that it went in circles for too long without moving forward—Raya (understandably) doesn’t trust Strick and he doesn’t trust her. Sometimes they inch forward and often it just stalls, with Raya often going in full bi*** mode (sometimes justified, sometimes just for the purpose of being obnoxious) and the story taking a while to get anywhere.

Still, great characters, a different spin on an 1800s England novel, and an interesting side plot of murder made this at least a 4-star read for me.

Side note: Audio version was pretty good except the female voice doing Strick’s parts were not great.

Rating: 4
Steam: Medium to High
Themes and Tropes: Enemies to Lovers, Proximity, Opposites Attract, Racism

In French Holiday, Merry DeLuca pines after her BFF Leo for years, and then suddenly, he’s marrying her sister? What? So of course we are required to instantly hate the gorgeous, spoiled sister—either she knew Merry loved Leo and went after him anyway (pure evil) or she didn’t know Merry was in love with him all this time (self-centered and oblivious). Their PDA fest is enough to further drive the knife into Merry and she’s at a loss.

Perfect timing: Merry’s flighty godmother offers her a three-month stay in what sounds like a romantic and beautiful French chateau, so off she goes and finds . . . Noah Wright, Leo’s best friend, hot travel documentary star, and her mortal enemy. Neither will budge, so they’re stuck together as Noah tries to work and Merry tries to get over unrequited love. Can they strike a balance and find out they don’t hate each other after all?

I ended up loving this book, even though it was a little rocky for me in the beginning when I was cringing at most of what Merry said and hating Noah. But Merry made it a new goal to be more direct and stop backing down from things, which I loved. So no annoying heroine who just holds things in and lets people act like jerks—mostly.

Noah’s side story and the real reason he’s in France is done really well—I’m not going to give it away. Sometimes the side plots in the romances are just thrown in purely so they exist are aren’t well-developed, but this one forms a core part of the story and really helps the reader understand Noah. Both characters have their baggage and are working through it and supporting each other along the way. Even the final obstacle wasn’t dumb (thank goodness). Still hate the sister though.

Rating: 4.5
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Enemies to Lovers, Proximity, Castle, Escape/Travel
Pair With: Wines from regions near Annecy, France.

If archaeologist Corrie never sees fellow archaeologist Ford again, it’ll still be too soon. Bitter rivals since Ford stole a career-changing fellowship from Cori and continued undermining her from there, the last thing they want is to work together. But this is an epic project: uncover the remains of mythical ancient figure Chimalli and the treasures believed buried with him.

And the stakes are too high for both. Ford needs the promised payout to pay for his mother’s cancer treatment, and Corrie has devoted her entire professional life studying and seeking Chimalli, who she believes is her ancestor.

Of course, they’re at each other’s throats right away and the story is heavily stacked against Ford. It’s hard early on to see how Ford could ever look like a decent guy. Right away, he behaves like a first-class jerk and undermines her at every chance. Plus, there’s the classic story of the white male using nepotism to get opportunities that others worked harder for and deserved more—super annoying to say the least. But don’t worry, Corrie has her idiot and not-so-nice moments as well.

Still, Raiders of the Lost Heart was a lot of fun—interesting characters, unique surroundings, and some mystery involved. I’m always a sucker for archaeology (my fantasy dream job in another life), and it was easy to picture the dig site deep in the Mexican jungle. Plus the descriptions were excellent without going on for too long.

I ended up loving the characters together—I mostly came around to Ford though I have some lingering animosity toward him. The side characters rounded out the book nicely, and the story comes full circle in a fascinating way.

If you’re into enemies-to-lovers, close proximity (in a jungle no less), mystery, and some steam, this book should be up your alley! I listed to the audio–excellent.

Rating: 4
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Enemies to Lovers, Proximity, Isolated Location, Academic/Career Rivals, Mystery/Thriller
Pair With: Rye Whiskey. I’ve never had it, but somehow it’s the drink of choice in this book. Here are some ideas for rye cocktails.

"I’m a man of words, yet you rob me of them every single time.”

Once upon a time, Lily and Cal were desperately in love, eloped, and thought they could persuade her disapproving father to come around. He didn’t. Blackmail and secrets drove them apart, and she’s (rightfully) bitter than ever. But now she needs Cal’s power and influence to save her brother’s life. 

And their attraction picks right back up where it left off, though both fight it HARD and neither trusts the other. Both have grown over their four years apart–Tough and smart Lily takes over her father’s mining company and Cal grows into one of the most powerful newspaper publishers in the country. 

The story also adds mystery and intrigue surrounding immigration issues, particularly the Chinese Exclusion Act, so it’s (slightly) more than your typical romance. 

Rating: 3.5
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Second Chance, Secrets, Mystery
Pair With: Champagne

Get lost in the woods with sexy outdoor guy Beckett and lovable city girl Presley...

Anytime a book involves nature and a hot outdoor guy, I’m in! Even better when you add in the opposites attract, sweet characters, and kicking an obnoxious ex-boyfriend to the curb that you’ll find in Love, Naturally.

Presley’s been working at everything in life—trying to succeed in her hotel management career, be independent, and make her relationship with her boyfriend work. When she surprises him with a 10-day trip to a lakefront lodge for the two of them (something this city girl would never do), he wants to take someone else to ger away from Presley.

Beckett adores his family and will do anything for them—support his newly divorced brother in getting the lodge off the ground, help his single-mom sister and niece run the place, and sit on his dreams for a little while.

So when city girl Presley and “hot mountain man” Beckett cross paths, you see where this is going. Love, Naturally is super sweet—two characters who are almost too perfect, at least for a while. They’re both kind and thoughtful, get along perfectly not only with each other but everyone they come across, have great ideas for everything, etc. The attraction is instant and cute; they get together pretty quickly and really click; it’s all closed-door.

The story outside of the two main characters is cute too. Beckett’s family is lovely, his niece is adorable, you get a little of their stories and a feel for the surroundings.

Love, Naturally was my first Sophie Sullivan book and I’m sure I’ll dig into more of her work. 

Rating: 4
Steam: None
Themes and Tropes: Opposites Attract, Instant Attraction, Small Town, Nature
Pair With: This is more of a craft beer read.

Quiet school librarian and governor-hopeful cause scandal. Fun ensues...

In The Boyfriend Candidate, School librarian Alexis and gubernatorial candidate Logan each hit a hotel bar at the end of a long day. She’s hell-bent on a one-night-stand to shed her reputation as mousy and boring; he’s just there to have a drink and head home. But the universe has other plans. Upstairs they go and have some fun until the fire alarm goes off and they find themselves—clearly disheveled—outside in front of camera crews. And a fake relationship is born.

I mostly loved this book. Alexis and Logan are good but flawed humans—they feel like real people with real strengths and challenges. Alexis grows and finds her voice through Logan’s campaign and getting outside her comfort zone. She goes from quiet and scared to somewhat more assertive and confident. Maybe (definitely) her metamorphosis is unrealistic, but it’s a rom-com, so…. Logan’s growth isn’t as clear and obvious, but it’s there. He starts figuring out what to prioritize, what he wants out of life, and how much he loves Alexis. It’s cute, fun, and doesn’t require a lot of deep thinking (indeed, I’d advise against trying to think too much here).

I HATED the side plot. It wasn’t well-thought-out and just didn’t mesh with the story. Alexis’ sister, Lee, is also a politician, and, in exchange for her endorsing Logan, she demands Alexis go on a date with someone else. Obviously, Lee should know better than to push something that could easily destroy Logan’s campaign, and she should see how Alexis cares for Logan, but she does it anyway. You can see where this is going, and I’ll leave it at that. Really soured an otherwise great book for me. Yes, I suspend reality for rom-coms, but this plotline didn’t work.

Other (mild and personal preference) annoyance: singular first-person perspective. You only get Alexis’ point of view. While the author does a nice job of showing Logan’s thoughts and feelings through his actions and dialogue, it would have been nice to see some of the events from his perspective.

Still, The Boyfriend Candidate entertained me throughout with election drama, personalities, and legit commentary on education and politics, among other things. Everything came together beautifully at the end, all the feels were there, and they feel like the perfect couple.

Rating: 3.8
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Fake Relationship, Politics, Opposites Attract
Pair With: Texas Wines.

Perfect setting: a luxury, members-only, celebrity retreat club in the Scottish Highlands. Among the Heather combines so many romance staples, then you add in two classic characters: hardworking spitfire Aria, Hollywood daughter who wants to be successful in her own right, and famous actor North who came from nothing and just loves acting.

Angry and mis-judgey sparks fly from the start—North sees Aria as a trust-fund baby who only got her job because of daddy; Aria pins North as the typical spoiled and selfish celebrity. And she’s had enough of those.

Aria has a TON of insecurities. Her not-so-loving supermodel mother never misses a chance to comment on her weight. Almost every boyfriend just used her to get to her famous director father and dumped her in pretty cruel ways.

North isn’t so trusting either, given the way his longtime girlfriend backstabbed him and broke his heart. And he’s in acting because he truly loves acting, not for fame. He’s so thoughtful, so into Aria, and wants to show her she’s beautiful, sexy, smart, and that she can trust him.

But Aria’s not easily won over, and this is where the story drags a little bit. North does SO MUCH to show her she can trust him and believe him, but it takes her forever to get past her mistrust. And yeah, a lot of that mistrust is legit—insecurities developed over years don’t just disappear the minute a boy is being nice, but her issues went beyond that and he wasn’t just telling her pretty things.

Once they let each other in, it’s lovely, with some really meaningful moments and sweet gestures (and some hotness of course). And there’s some drama and danger from the side plots to make it about more than just Aria and North. Overall, Among the Heather kept me entertained and was a fun, easy read.

Rating: 3.8
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Enemies to Lovers, Close Proximity, Celebrity/Actor
Pair With: Your favorite scotch (yuck). If you’re not a scotch fan, maybe a celebrity actor’s wine.

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