Posted in Books

“Playing the Palace” by is weirdly familiar, but not in the way you think

Playing the Palace is a 2021 Berkley release from Paul Rudnick, which follows the love story of Carter Ogden, a perfectly ordinary American event planner, and Edgar, a prince. Their worlds are completely opposite, but their chemistry is undeniable. The only question is whether their relationship will stabilize, or explode.

This book has inevitably drawn comparisons to Red, White and Royal Blue, but honestly, that doesn’t really hold water. The love interest is the crown prince of England, but other than that, there is almost no overlap between the stories. In this book, the prince is out, he’s the heir to the throne, and he’s got emotional baggage and trust issues. Plus, the main character here is a Jersey-born New York event planner from a Jewish family. I loved Red, White and Royal Blue, but Jewish, it is not. This book also just reflects Rudnick’s voice in a way you’ll recognize if you’ve read anything else of his- lush descriptions, laugh-out-loud snark, fiery dialogue. I think that nothing in this book is all that derivative of RWaRB, but it does strike me as remarkably similar to another book, one of Rudnick’s own.

Gorgeous is a 2013 young adult fiction book from Scholastic Press. It follows Becky Randall, a perfectly ordinary American raised in a Missouri trailer park by a single mother. When her mom dies, Becky discovers Roberta Randall’s previous life, as the most beautiful woman in the world. Tom Kelly, a notorious designer, promises Becky that she can be beautiful too, with some conditions. This sends Becky on a breakneck journey to international stardom, which is how she meets her love interest, Prince Gregory.

Here’s the thing: the books could not be more different. Becky is an eighteen year-old girl dealing with the death of her mother and her own insecurities. Carter is a gay man approaching thirty surrounded by family and friends, but lonely for a companion. The tone is fairly similar- both are fish-out-of-water stories, though Playing the Palace is more a comedy of errors. Gorgeous features a magical realism element that is absent in PtP, and it does drive a lot of the plot, as Becky is made magically beautiful and develops a second identity as supermodel and actress Rebecca Randall.

Still, the similarities are hard to ignore if you’ve read both books. The royal families are a good start: The Queen in both books is a curmudgeon, eccentric and a little hostile, although she’s more outright verbose in PtP. There are two princes in both, and while both of the parents in PtP are dead, only the mother is dead in Gorgeous. It is notable that in both books the mother dies in a plane crash. Obviously, some similarities are to be expected in books with royal families based on the House of Windsor, but it wears a little thin here.

The structure of both books is fairly similar as well: love interests meet, there is a whirlwind courtship, followed by a trial by public opinion. There is a third-act breakup, followed by a televised declaration of love, and a wedding. Romance is often criticized for being formulaic, but it’s a little stunning to read essentially the same interactions between different characters, despite different context. There’s a moment in each book where the queen says she is going to ask each protagonist three questions. The prince makes a public speech declaring his love and asking to marry the other person, on live television. To be frank, it’s close to self-plagiarism. It initially just seemed self-referential, I was waiting for Becky to be introduced as the wife of the prince’s older brother, but that never happens.

Even some characters feel as though they inhabit both books: Rocher is Becky’s best friend, and a lot of her bleeds through to Carter’s sister, Abby. Abby is a great character, and I really enjoyed her in PtP, but she’s basically Rocher. She’s unwaveringly supportive, delightfully foul-mouthed, and Carter’s best friend. A lot of dialogue between them could have been taken from one book or the other and you’d never know. I think Abby is an improvement, if only because she has a vivid internal life and her backstory is more interesting.

One of my favorite things about Rudnick’s style is that it is unapologetically bonkers: I’m sorry, but there’s just no way the Queen of England befriends a retired CPA or flies across the world to speak to her son’s ex-boyfriend. But that’s what he writes, and he does it well. I like both books, I just wish they weren’t so clearly imprinted on each other. They are such fundamentally different stories, and the similarities feel lazy. There were two ways to go: the books could have taken place in the same world, as I initially suspected, with the second, younger prince as the love interest, and you can keep the similarities with the royal family. Door number two, the family could have been completely different, and thus the story would have changed along with them.

I like different things about Gorgeous and Playing the Palace, I loved the magic in the former and the Jewishness in the latter. I loved the characters in both, and the writing. But this isn’t a small thing, and it cheapens both books. I’m honestly surprised that this hasn’t been commented on before, given that Rudnick has a couple of books out, and these two are by far his most popular. I have no issue with authors exploring the same tropes in new ways, but it seems like this would have been an excellent opportunity to break some new ground. Both books have their flaws and strengths, but the biggest problem with both is the existence of the other. I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.

Posted in Books

“Electric Idol” by Katee Robert

I read the first book in the Dark Olympus series and enjoyed it- I love Hades and Persephone retellings, and I also love the sunshine-grump dynamic. I also think Robert is excellent at setting up side characters, which made me anticipate this book with excitement. I was also hoping that Electric Idol would solve some of the issues I had with the first book.

I did love Electric Idol, it has a lot of great themes and strong central characters. One of the prevailing themes in this series is parental abuse, and that gets more intense in this book. I continue to hate Demeter with a passion, and I feel for her daughters. We get to see Psyche really playing the world and presenting a face for the cameras, and how good she is at it. Eros as his mother’s enforcer is equally interesting, and I just love a guy who immediately falls for the first woman who is nice to him. I equally love that Psyche sees a trained killer and feels compassion for him. The story is really about two damaged people finding themselves together, and I’m a sucker for that stuff.

In terms of things that disappointed me, there’s quite a bit. Electric Idol is a reminder to me that I can enjoy reading a book and think parts of it are really solid while having issues with other parts! One of the biggest problems with this book is one that we saw in Neon Gods, the issue of world-building. Most readers know that exposition dumps can take you out of the story, but a lack of context can be just as distracting. The biggest, most consistent problem I have with these books is that there is just so little explanation of the world of the story. We know that Olympus is a real place, and the Underworld is like another district, and the Olympians have dominion over the city. The titles of the gods pass to new people periodically, and the three elder gods, Hades, Poseidon and Zeus are passed from parent to child. Each Olympian rules over their own domain, but that’s pretty much all we get. That’s all she wrote, folks. There does appear to be an outside world, as Persephone has a plan to escape the city and go to the mundane world, but that’s pretty much all we know. One of the most fun parts of retellings is seeing how they are different, and how the author choses to interpret the original story. I would say this book continues the sort of mobster romance vibe the first book had, though it’s way less kinky than the first one. Neon Gods definitely has a more BDSM tone, and this one is just garden variety erotica. I wasn’t disappointed by that, I think it’s good for the story and works for the characters, but it is a change in tone between books.

I was also disappointed that the next book isn’t about the next of Demeter’s daughters. I’m excited to see what comes next in the story, but it is a little weird that the first two books are about two people from the same family, and at least the next book is unrelated to them. Still, the next book is about a big upset politically, so that might mean we get to understand a little more about how the world works. Personally, I think if you go into it just looking for romance and don’t think too much about the mythology, you can enjoy it as it is.

This reviewer was given an advanced readers’ copy in exchange for an honest review. Electric Idol can be purchased wherever books are sold, or borrowed from your local library.

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“Miss Moriarty, I Presume?” by Sherry Thomas

I’m a big fan of this series, and this sixth volume did not disappoint! Thomas really keeps the world fresh by introducing new characters and conflicts without escalating too much. I think this series could easily span a dozen books and stay interesting, which is high praise from me.

This book brings the Moriarty problem to the foreground, with the criminal himself meeting Charlotte for the first time. Their meeting is foreboding and has all of the suspense it’s earned, and the case he sets before her really puts Charlotte and her allies in a corner. One of the problems with keeping your adversary in the shadows is that the reveal can be a letdown, but this wasn’t. Moriarty earns his menace, and the tension of this story is as tight as a tripwire.

The new characters we meet in this book are compelling, and add to the rich world Thomas has created. As well as the suspense of the main mystery, I enjoyed the romantic tension between Charlotte and Lord Ingram, which has only gotten more interesting. I think the scene between him and Mrs. Watson, where she essentially lays out that only complete happiness or complete heartbreak can follow, is very well done. Ingram says something very clever, that Charlotte loves freedom, and he loves security, but neither can accommodate those desires for the other. I think it will be interesting negotiating those needs between these characters moving forward. I also enjoyed Olivia’s growth and her becoming more of a part of the team. Overall, this book is a stellar addition to the series, and as soon as I put it down I was mad it was over!

Miss Moriarty, I presume? can be purchased wherever books are sold, or borrowed from your local library. This reviewer was provided with a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Books

“All the Feels” by Olivia Dade

So, full disclosure, I have interviewed Olivia Dade and she is delightful. She is a kind, lovely person, and I love her books. If you want to read about her, our interview appears in the Festival Review’s Inkhorn.

If you enjoyed Spoiler Alert, you probably remember Alex, Marucs’ best friend and co-star in a big-budget fantasy TV show. Alex is a loose cannon if ever there was one, and has caught flack from industry bigwigs. This leads to him being assigned a “minder,” someone to keep him in line until the finale of Gods of the Gates airs.

That’s where Lauren comes in- her asshole cousin, one of the honchos on Gods of the Gates, asks her to take care of Alex. While Lauren has been trying to take a well-deserved vacation, she knows her family would tell her to take the job as a favor. Plus, the gig is a lot cushier than she’s used to, and will provide a financial cushion as she contemplates her next move.

Lauren has to keep Alex in sight pretty much all the time, and they eventually become friendly. Still, Lauren finds it increasingly difficult to keep emotional distance from the Alex behind the gorgeous exterior. Alex is facing some equally difficult choices, as his public perception is in the toilet; and he is facing the release of the last season of a show he used to be proud of, but can’t stand behind anymore.

I adored Alex and Lauren. They both have obvious flaws, and those flaws make a lot of sense given their backgrounds and the choices they have made. Alex in particular makes this book a favorite for me. He’s just so darling, and you don’t usually see a grumpy/sunshine where the guy gets to be sunshine! Alex has a lot of internal conflict, and despite acting like an open book he is a private person. I loved seeing him do things on his own terms. I also loved Lauren growing to advocate for herself and see her worth better, her journey from feelings of inadequacy and exhaustion to a more joyful, full life is compelling. Dade’s characters really make this book, and I can’t say enough good things about them. The dialogue is sparkling, it’s funny as hell, and I just can’t recommend it enough.

All the Feels can be purchased wherever books are sold, or borrowed from your local library. If you would like to read my review of Spoiler Alert, you can find it here.

Posted in Books

“The Singles Table” by Sara Desai

I read The Marriage Game, and immediately couldn’t wait to get my hands on more Sara Desai! Fortunately, her new book, The Singles Table, is a fantastic read that I would recommend to any lover of contemporary romance.

Zara is a young lawyer who turned away from a potentially more fashionable corporate career to work for a smaller firm. She still wants to attract high-profile clients, but she hasn’t got an avenue to pursue that. Instead, Zara’s numerous aunties hand out her business cards to anyone they can press them on. Resigned to auntie-dom despite her youth, Zara prides herself on making good matches, and when she meets Jay, she offers him a deal.

Jay is in security, and his work brings him into contact with the kind of contacts Zara needs to solidify her position at her firm. Despite a bad first, second, and third impression, Zara talks Jay into introducing her around in exchange for her help finding his perfect match. The wedding season is trying, and Zara has a lot on her plate, so an inconvenient attraction to Jay, a man she detests, is frustrating. Jay is equally frustrated by his desire for Zara, a woman as close to his opposite as possible.

I love a good vulnerable lead, and both Jay and Zara have a lot of emotional baggage. Jay working through his issues is great, and Zara figuring out her priorities is just *chef’s kiss.* I love to see characters work on their issues and let people in emotionally! The secondary characters are also really solid, the parents in particular. It’s tricky to set up a whole cast of characters without having them blend together, but Desai is very deft with her characterization. The chemistry between the leads really sells the story, but all of the moving parts really make this book an A+. The tropes at work here are enemies-to-lovers and sunshine and grump, two of my very favorites. I think Desai’s work is only getting better, and I can’t wait to see what’s next from her.

The reviewer was provided with a copy of this book for review. You can purchase The Singles Table anywhere books are sold, or borrow it from your local library.

Posted in Books, TV

My Definitive Ranking of The Bridgertons

So, I know I’m super late to reading all of the Bridgerton books but, in my defense, I have been very busy. I did watch the show’s first season last year, and for me it was a solid B effort. I decided to read all of them before the new season comes out, because have been seeing a lot of anticipation for Anthony and Kate, and so that I can get all of the jokes on Twitter. While the reading experience of each books was enjoyable, in my opinion the quality varies wildly from book to book, so I decided to rank them. The first ranking will be by how good I thought it was, and there will be a secondary rating for utter ridiculousness, a phrase which here means, “anything that strains the credulity of even the most generous reader.” That being said, I did very much like reading these books, they’re fun, if different than my usual, and if you’re a big fan, I do not begrudge you. I am not trying to yuck anyone’s yum!

1. When He Was Wicked (Book 6, Francesca)

There are a lot of reasons this one is my favorite, but I love Francesca and her independence possibly the most. She really lives life as she wishes, and she doesn’t take shit from anyone. I also get a bit sick of “virginal debutante” books, so it was a nice change of pace. I am always skeptical of insta-love, but it works here really well, and I love Michael’s pining. I also just adore Colin in this book, good show to him. My only big hang up is the infertility storyline, which I didn’t love. If she was going to be infertile, then let her be, and find peace with it, or adopt children. I kind of hate when a couple is despairing over childlessness and it’s magically solved- this is a real-life problem that many people never get past. Also, producing a child every year is not normal, which is what the other Bridgerton couples do. Just my one thing with this book, but it’s still my favorite. This book is only a one out of ten on the silliness scale.

2. The Viscount Who Loved Me (Book 2, Anthony)

There is a lot of what I like to call “Bridgerton Male Nonsense” in the books with leading Bridgerton men, because it seems to me that very few of them have any sense at all. Anthony is far from my favorite, but I loved this book. I love enemies to lovers, and Kate is an excellent foil to Anthony. I love their verbal sparring, and the pall mall game lives up to expectations. I feel like the sense of comradery and sibling rivalry really comes across in this one, while in the first book it was still developing. Plus, I love a good backstory, and we get a lot more about early life in the Bridgerton household from Anthony. Obviously, this book scores and ten out of ten on the silliness scale. BEES, for the love of god.

3. Romancing Mister Bridgerton (Book 4, Colin)

I simply adore this couple, partially because I think the Featheringtons are so fun in the books! I think there’s a real missed opportunity to have them be pesky but well-meaning people in the show. I dislike villainizing people for the sake of conflict, it suits the tone better for the family to just be vapid and a little overbearing. Penelope has a similar role in her family in this book, she’s ignored at best and treated as a homely spinster at worst, and her mother frequently delegates tasks to her. However, in the books, Penelope loves her mother and sisters, despite not having much in common, and there is a fourth Featherington, Felicity, whom Penelope is close to. I just loved Colin angrily telling her family that they undervalue Penelope, we love a man who demands respect for his lady. I did not like the conflict about her writing as Lady Whistledown, Colin was heavy-handed and made his own bed on that one. I also liked the revelation of her identity, though I think it could have remained a secret and I wouldn’t have minded. I just wasn’t a fan of their communication breaking down over Colin’s jealousy- it seemed childish and doesn’t really fit their relationship, in my opinion. This is only a three out of ten on the silliness scale.

4. On the Way to the Wedding (Book 8, Gregory)

Gregory may be the only sensible Bridgerton man- possibly because he is closer in age to his sisters, who are as a whole more sane than the men. I love Gregory, he’s a sweetheart and I find all of his actions understandable and within reason. I feel like the book is pretty dark, as compared with the others in the series. Lucy’s uncle is an outright villain, and I liked the twist toward the end. I guess the main issue I had with this book is the complete shift mid-plot from light farce to something much heavier. The premise starts out with your standard love quadrangle, but the tonal shift is abrupt. I loved Lucy, but I just hated, hated both Richard, her brother, and Hermione, her supposed best friend. Neither person appeared to have a single lick of sense between them, and if they really cared about Lucy, they would have been more aware of the situation she was in before it got really bad. Richard also could have tried to help Lucy earlier, given that he has reached his majority, and he’s a shitty brother for letting their uncle just walk all over her. In terms of silliness, I would rate this book a strong five.

5. It’s in His Kiss (Book 7, Hyacinth)

So, I have found Hyacinth very annoying in past books, but I love her in this one. She and Gareth have great chemistry, and I love their flirting and banter. I didn’t like the lying on Gareth’s part, once again, trauma doesn’t excuse bad behavior! He compromises her in order to trap her into marriage, and his motives don’t really matter, that’s just a shitty thing to do. I do enjoy their love story, and I like both protagonists, but I think Gareth should have had to do more to earn forgiveness and prove he could be trusted again. I also love the mystery of the diary, a treasure hunt is always fun, and family issues are at the heart of most Bridgerton books. All in all, this one was middling for me, but I would say Hyacinth is vying for my favorite Bridgerton sibling. I would say this rates a two on silliness.

6. To Sir Philip, With Love (Book 5, Eloise)

I enjoyed their chemistry, and I love a good falling in love by correspondence, but this book barely breaks top five for me. Eloise is rather enjoyable, but Sir Philip is fairly dense despite being a man of science, and I don’t love that his emotional damage becomes Eloise’s problem. I also don’t really like Marina just existing as a plot device, even her children seem to hate her for existing. Not exactly banner representation of depression, and she wasn’t allowed a single redeeming quality either. Also, we once again have Bridgerton men bulldozing anyone in their path, which while charming at times, is annoying as well. Eloise could have easily avoided the problems she faced in this story by enlisting her mother’s help- Violet would have happily engaged in subterfuge against her sons if it would lead Eloise to the aisle. This book rates a five out of ten for silliness, given that both of the main characters make idiots out of themselves.

7. The Duke and I (Book 1, Daphne)

This one is just kind of okay? It’s definitely better in some ways than the show’s adaptation, though I could have done without marital rape, just as a personal choice. Daphne does kind of come across as “not like other girls” which is the worst, but she’s a lot better than in the show, and does appear to have a personality. I liked Simon well enough. This is only a two out of ten on the silliness scale, because this one is fairly straightforward all things considered.

8. An Offer From a Gentleman (Book 3, Benedict)

I don’t really care for this one for the most part- I like Sophie well enough, but Benedict makes an ass out of himself for almost four hundred consecutive pages, and he absolutely doesn’t deserve Sophie. I don’t think their instant love for each other really works, and there are way too many coincidences in this book. Sophie’s step-mother is also far too cartoonishly villainous, and it really is too melodramatic of a story. By far the worst parts are when Benedict coerces Sophie into making decisions and takes advantage of her, with no intention of doing right by her. Benedict is a second son, and while the Bridgertons are scrutinized, they are well-liked, and there is literally nothing to stop him from living a quiet, country existence with her as his wife. His family is loving and supportive, and Benedict is just a little shit for the entire story until his mother gives him a kick in the right direction. I would also rate it an eight out of ten on the silliness scale, if only for the goddamn jail scene.

I enjoyed reading the series, though I doubt I’ll ever reread any of them, with the possible exception of my top three. As historical romance go, they are fairly ridiculous, but fun nonetheless. I don’t think I’m going to bother with any further books by Julia Quinn, though, I think I’ve hit my limit!

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“The Devil’s Own Duke” by Lenora Bell

The Devil’s Own Duke is a historical romance that follows an unlikely couple- Lady Henrietta Prince, the daughter of a duke, and Ash Ellis, the gambler who turns her life upside down.

When her father’s heir unexpectedly dies, only child Lady Henrietta frog-marches her reluctant father to the marriage mart, telling him in no uncertain terms that he must wed and do his duty so that they may keep their estates in the family. Enter Ash Ellis, an underworld prince who claims to be the legitimate heir to the dukedom. While Henrietta protests, her father is only too happy to welcome Ash to the family, and be freed from the need to marry and beget more offspring.

To preserve her family’s vineyards, her pride and joy, Henrietta agrees to a marriage of convenience with Ash, who seems bound and determined to sabotage all she has worked for. Henrietta knows that she can make her wine a success, if people would give English wine half a chance. Ash is determined to turn the estate towards profit, and keep his managing wife in her own sphere. What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?

I loved Henrietta. Despite her naïveté, she is fairly sensible and the reader can really sympathize with her. She and Ash are both compelling protagonists, and even as they are at odds, their chemistry is off the charts. I’m personally a sucker for the lost heir trope, and this is also a bunch of other fun ones, like enemies-to-lovers and marriage of convenience. I think that a lot of the time we see young women taking charge of their lives in historicals it can come across as a bit far-fetched, but I love what I see here. Henrietta knows she can succeed, and always takes the best path to getting what she wants. Ash is obviously deceptive in his dealings with the ton, but not in a way which makes him distasteful. I really like him, and he definitely comes across as worthy by the end of the story.

The Devil’s Own Duke can be purchased wherever books are sold, or borrowed from your local library. The reviewer was provided with a copy by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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“The Last Graduate” by Naomi Novik

The second book in the Scholomance trilogy, The Last Graduate, follows El and her friends as they begin their senior year and preparations for the lethal graduation run. El also has to reckon with a warning she received from her mother, to stay away from Orion Lake, her kind-of-boyfriend.

Our reluctant protagonist has to deal with a terrible class schedule, the discomfort of being popular after years of social ostracism, and a host of other problems. El’s voice remains unique and prickly, the narrative style is one of my favorite things about this series. She’s snarky, and she would love to believe that she doesn’t care about people, but she can’t help it. El is a better person than she wants to be be, despite dire prophesies of her future.

I liked that Aadhya and Liu got a lot of time on the page, because their friendship is at least as important at the El-Orion relationship, and I love their dynamic. In particular, I liked the extra time we got to spend with Aadhya, because I think Liu got more characterization in the first book and this one really fleshed Aadhya out for me more.The new freshmen were pretty decent additions too. I think Orion took a pretty visible backseat in this one, but he still has an arc and it works for the book. He had a lot going on in A Deadly Education and it makes sense to divert focus a little more and really zoom in on some other stuff, like El’s journey.

The thing that most bothered me about the previous book was the first third kind of feeling like an info-dump, but this one didn’t have that problem. El’s voice is pretty chatty, but it comes across naturally and I liked it. The controversy about the first book and potential racial insensitivity made me inclined to read this one a little more closely, but I don’t think there’s anything racist in this book. Overall, I really loved the book, but beware the cliffhanger ending! If the ending of the last book was difficult, just wait until you read this one.

This reviewer was given an advanced readers’ copy in exchange for an honest review. The Last Graduate can be purchased wherever books are sold, or borrowed from your local library.

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“The Charm Offensive” by Alison Cochrun

The Charm Offensive is a queer contemporary romance starring an unlikely pair brought together by strange circumstances. It is a sweet, hot story, and a promising debut from queer writer Alison Cochrun.

Dev fell in love with happily ever after as a boy, and now he makes real ones on TV, as one of the crew of a Bachelor-esque dating show. Unfortunately, Dev is nursing a broken heart going into this season, following his breakup with his long term boyfriend Ryan, who also works on the show. Dev is prepared to power through filming on comfort Oreos, until the season’s Prince Charming puts a snag in his plans.

Dev is used to handling the female talent, the contestants for the prince’s heart, while his ex takes care of the prince. Charlie is no ordinary prince. He’s uncomfortable being touched, he doesn’t play well to camera, and he nearly falls off his horse at the first shoot. Despite being angelically beautiful, Charlie is possibly the most awkward person to ever have a crown perched atop his golden curls. So, Dev is set the most challenging assignment of his career: Cyrano the prince of disaster through a compelling season of reality TV.

Both of the main characters are absolutely to die for- Charlie is an adorable disaster while Dev is an ultra-competent mess, and they compliment each other entirely. I love the mental health rep for both characters, and the queer rep as well. I think LGBTQ+ stories can sometimes be stymied by the “coming out” narrative but this one is all smooth sailing. I love Charlie’s emotional intelligence and his kindness, he’s what I want romance heroes to be like moving forward. Dev is so special, I love his realization about choosing himself and getting what he deserves.

The secondary characters are also amazing- my favorite was Parisa, but Jules is adorable and I hope she gets a book! I think any lover of queer stories will be a fan, but especially those who loved Red White and Royal Blue or Cat Sebastian fans.

The reviewer was provided with a copy of this book for review. You can purchase The Charm Offensive anywhere books are sold, or borrow it from your local library.

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“A Lot Like Adiós” by Alexis Daria

A Lot Like Adiós is an amazing new contemporary romance from Alexis Daria , following Michelle Amato, cousin to the heroine from You Had Me at Hola, and her one-that-got-away, Gabe.

Gabe and Mich were best friends and neighbors, but Gabe ran away from his family (and by extension Michelle) after high school. He started his life over on the other side of the country, while Michelle got on with her life. Michelle is successful, motivated, and intentionally single, with little desire to cave to her family’s marriage-minded proddings. Gabe is equally unattached, focusing on expanding his business. When chance throws Gabe back into Michelle’s orbit, the two have a lot of tension to work out, and a lot of history to untangle. Michelle is still angry, and Gabe hasn’t fully moved on from what made him leave.

This book bangs, just leading with that. Michelle and Gabe have crazy chemistry and seeing them try to work that out, first physically and then emotionally, really works. I’m also a sucker for a lot of the tropes in this one- it’s a second chance, childhood best friends, enemies-to-lovers, and secret-FWB. This is all catnip for me. Just like You Had Me at Hola, these characters have issues that are backed up by a strong emotional core, making the conflict between them feel real and urgent. I think the family stuff (on both sides) was handled very well, without minimizing the past. I loved this book, I think it’s incredible. Definitely read it if you liked YHMaH, I think it’s even better.

The reviewer was provided with a copy of this book for review. You can purchase A Lot Like Adiós anywhere books are sold, or borrow it from your local library.