Reviews, Romance

Review: Passion on Park Avenue

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wish that more romance writers would realize that less is more. So often I’ll enjoy reading a romance only to become annoyed when it becomes a broken record of all the petty roadblocks the central characters have put between themselves making me want to go all Cher in Moonstruck and yell “Snap out of it!”.  Sometimes I even want to slap them. While that did happen to an extent in Lauren Layne’s Passion on Park Avenue, Ms. Layne kept her novel of a former housekeeper’s daughter made good and the boy, now very much a man, who tormented her and helped to bring on her mother’s downward spiral short and sweet. Yet, she was able to add a little weight to what could’ve been a pretty typical romance novel.
I’ve read novels where the author attempted to add some meat to a familiar story but it often felt like it was tacked on – a failed attempt to stand out from the pack. In Passion on Park Avenue however, Walter’s Alzheimer’s not only felt authentic but was actually necessary to Naomi’s journey of forgiveness and healing. Naomi is a great character – strong, and empowering, yet vulnerable and haunted, as we all are, by our past – and Oliver is totally swoon-worthy, which any romance reader knows is very important. Along with the romance, which was sweet with just a little steam, there was also a fun friendship between three unlikely women.   Thank you to Goodreads.com for the opportunity to read this ARC.  I cannot wait to read the next to books in the Central Park Pact series.

There are a lot of romance novels out there.  Among my favorite authors are Susan Elizabeth Phillips (her Ain’t She Sweet is one of my absolute favorites) and Kristan Higgins.  If you’re looking for something short and light, you can’t get much lighter than Janet Evanovich’s early romance novels such as Manhunt and Suzanne Baltsar’s Trouble Brewing features a strong, independent businesswoman like Naomi from Passion on Park Avenue

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Chick-Lit, Reviews, Romance

Review: Bidding for Love

Bidding for Love Bidding for Love by Katie Fforde

My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

Katie Fforde’s romantic chick-lit novels may not be the most well-written, and the plots may be formulaic, but they are sweet and a little sexy – just what you need sometimes, especially in summer. I particularly enjoy the rural English settings which always make me feel cozy and more than a little envious. Bidding for Love, like most of the other of Fforde’s novels I’ve read feature a spunky young woman trying to make it on her own in an unfamiliar setting. In this case, Flora has inherited more than half of the family auction house from a distant relative.
Flora, despite a rocky start, and a less than warm welcome, makes friends and starts to settle into the small village, her cozy cottage, and eventually the business. Until she realizes she’s falling in love with her stuffy, unavailable business partner. It is, as expected, a sweet, easy, breezy read. However, and maybe this is just because I’m an average American, but I kept getting hung up on the fact that Flora and Charles are cousins even though the distance of that relationship was reiterated often throughout the novel. It didn’t bother me enough to stop me from enjoying the story and the setting though.

I just love British Chick-Lit and I’m always looking for a new author in the genre (so if there’s someone you enjoy reading, please pass it on!) but for now Katie Fforde is my go-to writer for a gentler romantic comedy thanks to those cozy rural settings, spunky heroines, and sweet romances.  I particularly enjoyed Artistic License, Stately Pursuits, and Highland Fling.  

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Reviews, Romance

Review: The Distance

The DistanceThe Distance by Zoe Folbigg

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read Zoe Folbigg’s The Distance. The story of two people on opposite ends of the world who meet in a chat room and slowly fall in love is a sweet, wise exploration of how miles and life can come between people even in today’s shrinking technological world. At times the story moves slowly for its relatively short length and the flashbacks over the five years from their first meeting to the end of the story can get confusing. I kept having to look back up at the chapter title to understand the stage of their relationship was being related. Also, I’m not quite sure if the character of Kate and her story was really necessary but she did add an extra twist toward the end. I especially enjoyed learning a bit about the cultures of Hector’s Mexico and Cecilie’s arctic Norway.

Romantic fiction is full of characters getting in their own way of happiness but if you like the sweet tenderness mixed with the harsh realities of life found in The Distance, you might also enjoy Veronica Henry’s How to Find Love in a Bookshop or Louise Miller’s The Late Bloomer’s Club.

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Chick-Lit, Reviews, Romance

Review: The Accidental Beauty Queen

The Accidental Beauty QueenThe Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I thank NetGalley for the opportunity to read Teri Wilson’s new novel, The Accidental Beauty Queen. This story of bookish Charlotte who gets roped into filling in for her beauty queen twin, Ginny, when an allergic reaction sidelines her last chance at the crown that their mother won is everything most people expect from a rom/com (in fact Miss Congeniality is mention many, many times). It is light and somewhat predictable yet sweet and, at times, wise. Many of the things Charlotte expects to go wrong do but she hadn’t predicted connection with the other pageant girls or falling in love with one of the judges – a Darcy-quoting good guy.
The simple story only works because it is short yet the writing still tended toward repetition and some over-explanation. The biggest flaw for me was the ending which was rushed an tacked on, reading more like an epilogue than a conclusion. Still, it was a fun, light read.

Since Chick-Lit is one of my favorite genres, I could recommend any number of reads like The Accidental Beauty Queen, but if you’re looking for a really great romantic comedy, I recommend the books of Kristan Higgins.

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Reviews, Woman's Fiction

Review: The Late Bloomers’ Club

The Late Bloomers' ClubThe Late Bloomers’ Club by Louise Miller

My rating: 4.75 of 5 stars

It has been some months since I’ve read a novel that spoke to me as deeply as this one. As in her first novel, The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living, Louise Miller makes the small town Vermont setting come alive with her descriptive style.
The Late Bloomers’ Club isn’t all walks through ancient orchards or morning rushes at the Miss Guthrie Diner. It is a story about family, sacrifice, coming to terms with the past, and allowing yourself to see the beauty around you even when you feel like you’re stuck in a rut from which you’ll never emerge. It also has a sweet romance and some lovable, complex characters. And a few familiar faces from the earlier novel.  If I had one complaint, it would be that the happy and hopeful ending was a bit rushed. I very much enjoyed returning to Guthrie and finding a kindred spirit in Nora.

If you enjoy The Late Bloomers’ Club, definitely read Miller’s other novel, The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living, but I would also recommend one of my favorite reads from last year, The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane.

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