The Wedding Date: Same(ish) titles; different books

I was a slacker last year for the TBR Challenge and only posted the one time. This year, I plan to post monthly even if my posts are short. So seeing that the topic for January is We Love Short Shorts  I have added two short(ish) reviews rich with spoilers of two books with The Wedding Date  in their title for my first SuperWendy 2019 TBR Challenge.

2 people standing on either side of a door.The Wedding Date Bargain by Mira Lyn Kelly

When Sarah Cole finds herself in Chicago with two months to kill before her New York promotion goes through, she decides it’s time to take care of a few things—like the inconvenient issue of her virginity. Sarah knows the right guy for the job too: Max, the notorious lady’s man she’s been crushing on since college.

Max Brandt is all for a fling, just not with Sarah. She’s way too good for him. He walked away from her once, but it wasn’t easy.

Things are different now, and the plan is so simple. There’s no way either of them would do something as silly as fall in love…

I read/listened to this book 2 months ago. It was pleasant but infinitely forgettable. I can’t remember that much about the plot (other than what is outlined in the blurb above). It was very much a “The one that got away” plotline with the heroine regretting not having her chance at the hero long ago. She makes a decision to sleep with him before she leaves Chicago for a job in New York. There is a whole lot of navel gazing with questions of “should I” , “do I”, “does my career matter or love matter” etc etc. Of course, in the end lurve wins and career opportunities in Chicago over NYC win over the heroine for her perfect life (I am not being snarky here). And here is the spoiler: The grand gesture/love reveal was significant: the hero was the domesticated person in this romance. And the room he prepared for her in their home as a present was not a nursery but a study. I nice little nod symbolising his support of her as a career woman and no HEA baby epilogue for this novel.

As audiobooks go, this was a fun listen and the two narrators were pretty good on their own however their pacing differed from each other which grated each time the story transitioned from one character to the other. This was especially noticeable as I listen to audiobooks at a x1.25 speed. The standard speed does my head in as it tends to be too slow. I was interesting to note that this speed reflects a lot about the narrator’s sense of story and pacing as well as production qualities which I am finding that romance fiction audiobooks are nowhere near as well produced as literary fiction (surprise surprise!). In The Wedding Date Bargain, the male narrator varies his pace to such an extent that the x1.25 moves from standard speaking to speedy speed racer necessitating me to stop the audio and change the speed down to a x1.1 just to understand what he is saying. The male narrator also had an overly aggro way of shouting the arguments between the males in the story. Now, he is only enacting what the author wrote, But yeah. Tone done the gruff and angry. Heroes need some chill.

Purple and pink shades with a San fransisco city skyline sillhouette that includes a man and a woman holding hands. Flowers edge the imageThe Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

A groomsman and his last-minute guest are about to discover if a fake date can go the distance in a fun and flirty debut novel.

Agreeing to go to a wedding with a guy she gets stuck with in an elevator is something Alexa Monroe wouldn’t normally do. But there’s something about Drew Nichols that’s too hard to resist.

On the eve of his ex’s wedding festivities, Drew is minus a plus one. Until a power outage strands him with the perfect candidate for a fake girlfriend…
After Alexa and Drew have more fun than they ever thought possible, Drew has to fly back to Los Angeles and his job as a pediatric surgeon, and Alexa heads home to Berkeley, where she’s the mayor’s chief of staff. Too bad they can’t stop thinking about the other… 

They’re just two high-powered professionals on a collision course toward the long distance dating disaster of the century–or closing the gap between what they think they need and what they truly want…

Since 2018 was such a dud year for romance reading for me, I was quite deliberate in searching through recommendations and trying to read beyond the review hype and I felt this book was likely to be good. Nothing like curating your reading choices. Unlike the Wedding Date Bargain, The Wedding Date is infinitely memorable. I absolutely adored this book which had so many of my favourite tropes that all played out beautifully.

Where better to start than with the meet-cute “Stuck in a lift trope”*. This trope can both tank and soar and in this book, it is absolutely awesome. The dialogue just sparkles, the food begging is fun and it is such a great way for two people to get chatting and in this case, ending up with the hero Drew asking heroine Alexa to be his fake girlfriend (tropetastic!) at a wedding from hell. This weekend culminates with both Drew and Alexa getting on so well that they try to have a long distance relationship with both of them taking time to travel between Berkeley (near San Francisco) and Los Angeles over a series of weekends across many months. Drew is a paediatrician, and Alexa is a lawyer working for the Mayor. He is a white man and she is black. I loved the dynamic between the two of them and it reminded me of the gorgeous dynamic between Simon Baker and Sanaa Lathan in the wonderful movie Something New.

I loved that after months together, Drew picks up on small behaviours of Alexa’s constant outward happiness and how he can see beyond her smiles and laughs,

“She flashed a smile, but it didn’t reassure him. It didn’t have the glitter of joy hovering behind her eyes like her real smiles usually did.”p248

I just loved how Guillory connects these two through their humour and sparkle – oh that “glitter of joy”!. I loved the texting, I really understood the pressures they felt at being apart and the difficulty of understanding the tone with which messages are sent and the problems that are inherent in long distance romance. Guillory addresses issues of race, comfort zones when it comes to being with new acquaintances and expectations of how someone might fit into a new group of people and she explores these issues with the lightness that is romance comedy which in my opinion is very hard to do well as it could easily slip into mockery/slapstick/pejorative writing.

I also liked the reflections of how people can negotiate a new relationship especially with the added stress of distance. So few people can manage long distance romances, and it takes a lot of maturity on both sides to be able to sustain a relationship and this is something that falls apart for both Alexa and Drew especially in light of their long term issues around their lives that they both harbour. And yet, somehow, it all comes together again at the end. Not by some grand gesture and huge announcement, but just through Drew wanting to support Alexa on an issue that he knew was important to her even though they had broken up. Which brought them to mend their relationship and the ending of The Wedding Date was gorgeous and made me feel really happy and squishy schmaltzy with love love love. I am so happy that my 2019 romance reading started on such a high note.

 

 

  • Many many years ago, say about 28 years ago, fellow blogger, fun tweeter and longtime friend Infogenium and I entered a Mills & Boon romance fiction writing competition with a Stuck-in-a-lift short story entry which was totally fun to write. As co-writers, the two of us rock. We received a prize of 10 Mills & Boon (score!!!!) and an umbrella (unbranded – kinda a weird prize) and were told “Good but not the winner”. We both shrugged it off thinking that it must have been some promotional ploy that was sent out to all the entrants. Years later, I had a chance meeting with the manager of Mills & Boon at the time of the competition, who said that there were 5000 entrants and only 50 people who won the 10 books prize and that we should keep writing. Fond memories of Stuck in a lift stories 🙂

 

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One Big Huge TBR 2018 post

I have had a shockingly bad year in the review stakes. And I haven’t posted a single time for SuperWendy’s TBR challenge for 2018. And I think the only way I will be able to get back in her TBR good books so as to take part in TBR 2019 is to do one big TBR post to cover the whole of 2018. So here goes!

January 17 – We Love Short Shorts! (shorter reads)

This is not necessarily a romance, however it is about the love and broken hearts and breakups and wonderful couples separated due to someone dying. The Museum of Broken Relationships: Modern Love in 203 Everyday Objects by Olinka Vistica and Drazen Grubisic. Using one of my favourite writing styles, the epistolary nature of this book with a few pages and photographs of objects held now at two permanent museums – on in Zagreb, Croatia and one in Los Angeles, California. There is also a touring collection. I adored this book. And I really hope that there is a sequel for unbroken relationships.

February 21 – Backlist Glom (author with multiple books in your TBR)

Molly O'Keefe covers with naked headless men showing pecs and abs.

Molly O’Keefe’ You Can’t Hurry Love and You Can’t Buy Me Love

I adore Molly O’Keefe but I rarely stumble upon her books so when I do find them, I read them straightaway. Though I don’t consider 2 books a glom, I am sneaking O’Keefe in here.

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Rome and a cracking romance novel

I adore Mediterranean holiday romance fiction (oh the absolute joy of rewatching Come Semptember or Gidget goes to Rome) and I really enjoyed Alice Clayton’s Wallbanger (the sole novel – I ignored the rest of the series) so when I saw Roman Crazy  on the New Book display stand at the library, it was an auto borrow. To add to that, the cover art is all levels of awesomeness. This mashup of chick-lit (meh), Sex in the City lit (bleh) and romance (yeah) worked on many levels for me though there is some nitpicking to be had. But first, the blurb:

Roman Crazy by Alice Clayton and Nina BocciRoman Crazy by Alice Clayton and Nina Bocci

Avery Bardot steps off the plane in Rome, looking for a fresh start. She’s left behind a soon-to-be ex-husband in Boston and plans to spend the summer with her best friend Daisy, licking her wounds—and perhaps a gelato or two. But when her American-expat friend throws her a welcome party on her first night, Avery’s thrown for a loop when she sees a man she never thought she’d see again: Italian architect Marcello Bianchi.

Marcello was the man—the one who got away. And now her past is colliding with her present, a present where she should be mourning the loss of her marriage and—hey, that fettuccine is delicious! And so is Marcello…

Slipping easily into the good life of summertime in Rome, Avery spends her days exploring a city that makes art historians swoon, and her nights swooning over her unexpected what was old is new again romance. It’s heady, it’s fevered, it’s wanton, and it’s crazy. But could this really be her new life? Or is it just a temporary reprieve before returning to the land of twin-set cardigans and crustless sandwiches?

So the book opens with Avery discovering her husband Daniel “balls deep” in his secretary. Despite an intervention by Daniel’s mother for her to just accept his infidelity, Avery chooses to no longer be a part of the twin-set-and-pearls-country-club-set and flies off to Rome to hide out in her best friend’s apartment. Continue reading

I wish I liked Rachel Gibson’s latest book

I loved Rachel Gibson’s writing when I first discovered her. At one point I binge read 15 of her books in the one short month. I loved her tone and voice so much that, despite her last 3 books feeling flat, I continue to read her novels just to refind that magic reading feeling. This novel was slightly better than the last lot I read, however, I still had certain aspects that I found unlikeable in this story… but first, let’s start with the (problematic) blurb:

Rachel Gibson Just Kiss me

Just Kiss Me

by Rachel Gibson

“Hello, Ms. Vivian . . . it’s been a long time.”

And with those words, Vivian Leigh Rochet nearly melted. It’s been years since she last saw Harrison Whitley-Shuler. She was a teenager scrubbing houses for a living. He was the gorgeous son of rich parents, not fit for the likes of her.

Vivian had vowed to get out of Charleston, become a big Hollywood star, and stick it to the snooty girls who made her cry.

She got what she wanted—and more—but why does her glamorous life seem so trivial?

Harrison got out too . . . making it all the way to Wall Street, until a heart attack forced him to trade in his cufflinks for a good set of hand tools.

Making furniture soothes his soul, but escaping the Whitley-Shuler heritage is nearly impossible. And now he’s come face-to-face with the one who got away. He’s not looking for love. He’s not even looking for sex . . . so why is resisting her the hardest thing he’s ever done?

A rose by any other name…

So yeah. I start reading the (print) book and there is no Harrison. Nope. Not even a Harry. The hero in this book is a Henry. Sure. The first letter is an H but at no stage is he called/revealed to be a Harrison. Continue reading

Wildflower Bay

This month’s SuperWendy’s TBR challenge is for a random pick. I read Rachael Lucas’s Wildflower Bay. Firstly, here is the blurb and be warned that I discuss spoilers beyond it including my opinion of the love declaration:

Wildflower Bay by Rachael LucasThis little island has some big secrets…

Isla’s got her dream job as head stylist at the most exclusive salon in Edinburgh. The fact that she’s been so single-minded in her career that she’s forgotten to have a life has completely passed her by – until disaster strikes.

Out of options, she heads to the remote island of Auchenmor to help out her aunt who is in desperate need of an extra pair of scissors at her salon.

A native to the island, Finn is thirty-five and reality has just hit him hard. His best friends are about to have a baby and everything is changing. When into his life walks Isla . . .

Earlier in the year, I read both Rachael Lucas’s Sealed With a Kiss and Coming up Roses. Neither book set the world on fire for me in the romance corner but I did enjoy the overall stories. Her books are romances but they lean heavily toward the community and friendship, Aga-saga, small-town/village stories. Continue reading

ShallowreaderBingo! August edition!

It’s the end of August and for the THIRD time this year, Willaful from A Willful Woman has won the Bingo call! Woooooot! There was some fierce competition this month so a big congrats to all who have played and to a whole lot of new players this month too! Yay to more Bingo players! For a few tasters Valancy and Keira Soleore already have awesome reading wrap ups for this month.

Jim Carrey running around like a madman hugging audience members

As for my own Bingo! reading this month…..

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I blame it on the name

So I have been trying to read a book called Tribal Law whose heroine is named Vassiliki Verity. I am not on an ego trip when I claim that this character is named for me. She is. I know this because I was told by both the author and Kat Mayo of Bookthingo.

Tribal Law by Shannon B. CurtisSo here is the story: Tribal Law is a crowdsourced story. Author Shannon B Curtis (full disclosure: Shannon and I have twittered together, supped together and presented on a panel at a library event together so are on pretty friendly terms) wrote a story whose plot and main characters were given to her by members of the Australian Romance Readers Association (another full disclosure: I am not a member of ARRA though I have attended all their conventions to date). There was a big meeting, I was told it was rather raucous and fun and I was also told that Kat Mayo – friend, borrower and romance reading mastermind – insisted that the heroine be named for me. Because she loves me. Or should that be loves torturing me.

I am up to Chapter 7 of this book and though it is well-written, interesting and funny I just cannot continue (at least at this point) because  of the heroine being called Vassiliki and there are sex scenes and I just can’t stay in the story because I keep seeing my own name and I have no idea how all you “normal” named people can cope with reading books where you constantly see your own names.

Especially when I see the phrases such as “Vassiliki is a vamp” before my eyes.

I purchased my own copy of Tribal Law.

PS This book has a hatchback driving hero. I will return to read it just for this one reason!