It’s been a while, I know. But I’m back with a new book review! FRAYED by Laura Pavlov was released today and I’m here to tell you why I loved it. I received an ARC (advance reader copy) from the author in exchange for my honest review. My ARCs have been so hit or miss lately that I was a smidge wary going into this read, but this book did not disappoint!
Little Gold Book
Frayed by Laura Pavlov
Genre: Romance – Contemporary (YA) Format: Kindle eBook Date Started: March 12, 2021 Date Finished: March 14, 2021 Rating: 4.5/5 star
By Its Cover
If I had to supply a math equation to summarize this book it would be: Bad boy + good girl = beautiful love story.
Frayed brings us to Willow Springs, TX, a small lakeside town with lots of drama and quite a mix of residents. The main characters are Adelaide Edington – high school senior with straight A’s and her whole life planned for her by her mother – and Jett Stone – star quarterback from the wrong side of town with a chip on his shoulder. Though seemingly opposites, the pair fits together in ways neither imagined possible.
In My Book
When I read the synopsis for Frayed, I knew I needed to read it. Even though I don’t typically read YA (young adult) romance, something about Adelaide and Jett called to me. They are young, yes, but the love that grows between them is once in a lifetime.
My favorite male characters are those who are strong yet vulnerable, and Jett fits perfectly in that category. His life hasn’t been easy and it would be easy for him to write off everyone in the town that has treated him and his family poorly for his whole life, but Addy brings out a side in him that is so powerful and honest.
Adelaide, or Ace as Jett calls her (I love a good nickname!), has always done what her parents, specifically her mother, have expected of her. But as she grows closer with Jett, she realizes the power in chasing her own dreams instead of someone else’s. With Jett by her side, steadily encouraging but never forcing his opinion on her, Adelaide’s confidence grows and she starts to live her life for herself.
To Close the Book
As with all good romance stories, my one big complaint is that I wanted more! I enjoyed Adelaide and Jett’s love story and I want to see how they continue to grow together over time. The good news is, since this is the first book in the series, we’ll likely see them again!
Welcome to the World of Regency & Victorian Romance!
Netflix’s “Bridgerton” took the streaming world by storm last month, quickly becoming the service’s top original show with views by over 82 million subscribers. Whether it was the instrumental pop songs, the historical fashion, or the steamy romance, viewers can’t get enough of the series.
As a lover of historical romance novels, I am delighted to see that “Bridgerton” has piqued the interest of many. In the past decade, I have read nearly 100 books set in England in the 1800s. It’s a fascinating time in history and the perfect setting for many of my favorite romance tropes. This century is composed of two well-known periods, the “Regency” period, from 1790 to 1830, and the “Victorian” era, from 1837 to 1901. Though only two hundred years ago, society and culture looked entirely different during this period compared to modern times. Novels set in the era highlight the harsh expectations set on women, from purity to demure behavior to complete reliance on men.
If you are interested in experiencing this time in history, I highly suggest checking out the historical romance authors I have detailed below. While Julia Quinn, author of the “Bridgerton” books that inspired the series, is a talented author, these novelists are my go-to when I’m craving an exciting romance full of compelling conflict and beautiful settings.
With over 100 published books, Stephanie Laurens is a prolific author whose books are mostly set in the Regency period. Her books’ heroes are often soldiers returning from war with France matched with strong-willed heroines, such as those in the Bastion Club series. She has also created an entire world with her Cynster series, with 28 books so far and likely more to come. I enjoy long series like these since there is a sense of familiarity when reading, even though each book is unique.
Before her untimely passing in 2019, Johanna Lindsey wrote novels set in various periods, from the Middle Ages to the Wild West. Her most popular series centers around the Malory-Anderson family, set in the Regency period as it heads toward the Victorian era. This twelve book series also has some books set in America, which offers a look into the foundling country between the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. My only gripe about the Malory-Anderson series is that some books featured heroines with mystical powers, which is not my taste.
A self-proclaimed lover of “rebels, scoundrels, and rogues”, Lorraine Heath’s novels are a steamy mix of stubborn heroes and bold heroines. I have read her London’s Greatest Lovers series at least four times now, and I’m gearing up for another re-read sometime this year. Most of Heath’s novels are set in the second half of the 19th century, with male characters returning from the brutal Crimean War or facing economic upheaval due to the Industrial Revolution. Heath will soon be introducing a new series, Once Upon a Dukedom, with the first book set to release on March 30, 2021. I received an advanced copy of this upcoming title and devoured it within two days!
If I had to pick a favorite historical romance author, it would be Lisa Kleypas. Her books are the ones I consistently re-read because of her ability to create complex and heart-wrenching stories. Another trend of hers I enjoy is that she doesn’t focus solely on characters from the wealthy noble class. Her Bow Street Runners and Gamblers of Craven’s series are two of my most read series. I am also currently in the process of reading her most recent series, which centers around the Ravenel family. To be honest, I was a bit hesitant to start this set of books because I have found that sometimes authors start to phone it in a bit once they’ve written more than twenty books. But that’s not the case here at all! The Ravenels have drawn me in with their strong and stubborn personalities, and I can’t wait for the seventh book in the series to be released later this year.
Now that you’ve heard my favorites tell me… Who are your favorite historical romance authors?
From one Wordo to another, thanks for tuning in! See you next time!
It’s Pub Day for one of my recent reads, Love At First by Kate Clayborn. I received a free advanced copy of this book from NetGalley on behalf of the publisher Kensington Books in exchange for my honest review. This was a sweet read featuring a lovely cast of characters, though it started off rather slow for me.
Little Gold Book
Love At First by Kate Clayborn
Genre: Romance – Contemporary Format: eBook Date Started: 2/16/21 Date Finished: 2/22/21 Rating: 4/5 star
By Its Cover
Sparks. Sabotage. Adorable but nosy neighbors. This enemies-to-lovers romance novel will have you laughing and smiling! When Will inherits an apartment from his estranged uncle, he decides to list it for short-term rental. Little does he know that he’s now part of a unique group of neighbors who have become family over the years. Nora, spokeswoman for the building, plots to ruin Will’s plan before he ruins her adopted family and beloved apartment complex. But is the heat that develops between Will and Nora a result of anger, or perhaps something more?
In My Book
Contemporary romance has been hit or miss for me lately, so I was a bit apprehensive when I started this book. I haven’t read any of Kate Clayborn’s books previously and didn’t have any on my TBR, so she was an unknown to me. Sometimes this doesn’t work out so well, but this time it did!
Kate Clayborn developed a sense of community in her book, one that I wish I could join! The neighbors were each unique, but I could feel that their love and respect for one another was genuine. Watching Will fall in love with not just Nora but the whole building was heartwarming.
I have only one real complaint. The pacing in Will & Nora’s relationship was slow to start, with the romance not starting until halfway through the book. This left the rest of the book feeling a bit rushed, as I would have liked to see them find their way in the fledgling relationship more. I also didn’t fully understand their pasts and fears of relationships until they started exploring their relationship’s romantic side. Sometimes, I felt a bit annoyed with the characters because their motives were unclear to me. Now that I know this, it wouldn’t bother me so much during a re-read, so don’t let it stop you!
This was a sweet romance novel well-balanced in romance, humor, trauma, and growth. It felt realistic, like these could be your neighbors or friends. A great read when you need a laugh and a pick-me-up mixed together.
To Close the Book
This is a book that I would love to see as a series so that the characters can come to life. I can picture them each in my head so perfectly, as the author did an excellent job of developing a backstory for each character, even the more minor ones.
It’s pub day for Choosing You by Stacy Finz! I was lucky enough to receive an ARC (advanced readers copy) of this book through NetGalley last month. This was a great first experience with NetGalley because I absolutely adored this book. Keep reading for my full Choosing You book review.
Little Gold Book
Choosing You by Stacy Finz
Genre: Contemporary Romance Format: eBook Date Started: January 17, 2021 Date Finished: January 18, 2021 Rating: 4.5/5 star
By Its Cover
Set in small-town Nugget, CA, about an hour west of Reno, Choosing You tells a beautiful story of finding love after loss and despair. Widowed Bryann and divorced Ethan are brought together when Brynn’s son Henry becomes Ethan’s pediatric orthopedic patient. Despite coming from very different worlds and a taboo stigma on their relationship, Brynn and Ethan fall deeply in love and help each other heal from their painful pasts.
In My Book
In Choosing You, you follow two people who come from such different worlds yet fall utterly in love with one another. The build-up to their romance is slow but full of sparks between the main characters, Brynn and Ethan. There is plenty of conflict, but realistically so, not overdone. I recently read an article that said something along the lines of the best romance writers make you think there’s no way the central couple could end up together, even though readers pick up the book knowing they will. The author did exactly that, and in a beautiful, heart-wrenching way.
I don’t often read romance novels in which one of the main characters is a parent, so the fact that both Brynn and Ethan had children added an additional element of complexity to this story. Not only did they have to make decisions based on their feelings toward each other, but they also had to keep the best interests of their children in mind. This is especially true for Ethan, as he struggles with whether or not to reconcile with his ex-wife.
This was my first time reading a Stacy Finz novel, and I was a little nervous about hopping into the 11th book of the Nugget series. Those nerves were for nothing, though – I was able to dive into life in Nugget without needing to have the backstory of the previous books. There were hints to other stories, but that just made me want to read the rest of the series! Finz also hinted at a possible next story without letting it take away from the current one. In fact, it drew me in yet again.
I honestly don’t have any negative things to say about this book. The pacing felt right, the story felt realistic, and of course, there was a happy ending, as is generally the case in the romance genre. I’ll surely re-read it in the future when I need a little pick-me-up of a beautiful love story.
To Close the Book
Most of my romance reading may be relegated to historical periods, but it is nice to visit the modern world of love from time to time. I am grateful to have found NetGalley, as I may not have stumbled upon this book otherwise. I may even check out some of the other books in the series since Nugget sounds like a special place full of love and strong characters.
Welcome to my January 2021 reading round-up! First of all, can you believe January is already over? I feel like Christmas was just yesterday! Even though I’m still in disbelief, today I’m sharing the details of what I read in 2021. Hint: it was a lot! For me, at least 🙂
January 2021 Stats
After several years of reading only sporadically, 2020 was the year I found my way back to books. I read 34 books last year but hit a major reading slump from the end of the summer until mid-December. When it came to a 2021 reading goal, I wanted to set an achievable target, so I settled on fifty. After reading ten books in the first month of the year, I realize I may want to up that goal!
As an auditor by day, I love my numbers. I wanted to share a few stats about my January 2021 reads…
I’m finally owning that I love romance novels! I’ve always felt that I should be somewhat embarrassed by the number of romance books I read and that I should try to read more “sophisticated” genres. I believe this train of thought led me to lose my love of reading for a long time, because I was forcing myself to read things I didn’t connect with. Even as recently as last year, my reading slump began when I tried to make myself read books I thought I “should” read, rather than what I actually wanted to read.
As you can see from the stats above, I stuck mostly to my preferred romance novels. I did start off the year with a mystery/suspense novel and listened to a memoir. I feel like this is a good balance of books for me. I also didn’t find myself losing my reading mojo so much. I only slowed down when I got sick for a week or so toward the end of the month.
For romance novels, I generally prefer Kindle copies. I think this is because I read so many of them, and read them so quickly, that my apartment would be taken over with books if I owned physical copies of them all. The two hardcover books were from Book of the Month, which I enjoy because they’re special BOTM editions! I have found that I like to listen to the audiobook version of memoirs because hearing the author narrate their own story adds another level of connection to the experience.
Genre: Mystery Date Started: January 1, 2021 Date Finished: January 3, 2021 Rating: 4/5 stars Read my review here.
I wanted to start 2021 off with something different and The Night Swim fit the bill perfectly. This book got, and still has, me thinking about how rape and sexual assault are viewed in today’s society. I knocked off one star because I didn’t feel connected to the main character and the pacing was a little bit slow for my taste.
Genre: Romance Date Started: January 9, 2021 Date Finished: January 9, 2021 Rating: 5/5 stars Read my review here.
I stumbled upon this book, and I am so glad I did! I’m picky when it comes to romance novels, so it’s tough to find authors whose books I connect with consistently. As you’ll see, I read four of Devney Perry’s books this month! Oh, and book two in this series, The Bluff, releases Thursday February 4th!
Genre: Romance Date Started: January 10, 2021 Date Finished: January 11, 2021 Rating: 4/5 stars
What a sweet romance novel! The first in the Runaways series, this romance novel drew me in. I’d even go as far as giving it 4.5 stars. It told the story of a strong female lead looking to start over when she stumbles into an adorable town in West Virginia and the arms of a hunky mechanic.
Genre: Romance Date Started: January 12, 2021 Date Finished: January 14, 2021 Rating: 4/5 stars
This was my Book of the Month choice for January! I may post a more comprehensive review on here soon, but it was a sweet modern romance. The relationship/marriage of convenience trope is one I usually enjoy, and I think the author used it to her advantage to create a fun story.
This was a BOTM early release, and the book will be released on March 15, 2021!
Genre: Romance Date Started: January 14, 2021 Date Finished: January 17, 2021 Rating: 3/5 stars
Since the Netflix series Bridgerton was recently released, I wanted to read the first book in the series before watching it. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either. The pacing seemed really off to me. I don’t want to spoil too much in this post, but it felt like the love story alternated between rushed and drawn out. Three stars is a generous rating since it was a slog for me to get through.
I haven’t given up on the Bridgertons entirely, though. I know from experience that just because I don’t like one book in a series doesn’t mean I won’t like another. I’ve also enjoyed previous Julia Quinn books, so I may give book 2 a try sometime in the future!
I recently signed up for NetGalley, a site where you can request a free Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of a book in exchange for an honest review. Choosing You was my first ARC from NetGalley and it was a great pick!
This quick read tells a story of love after loss and making sacrifices for the life you want and deserve. It’s a book I would go to if I needed a pick-me-up and a few laughs. Although this was the eleventh book in the Nugget series, it was easy to read as a stand-alone without the background of Nugget’s other residents.
Genre: Romance Date Started: January 19, 2021 Date Finished: January 21, 2021 Rating: 4/5 stars
This is book two in the Runaways series, and I didn’t love it as much as the first. It leans more toward a 3.5-star rating for me. I felt like I didn’t get to know or connect with the male lead in this book as much as I would have liked. The relationship fell into place a little more quickly than I was expecting as well.
Genre: Memoir Date Started: January 18, 2021 Date Finished: January 22, 2021 Rating: 5/5 stars Read my review here.
I won’t repeat my whole review here, but I will say I loved this book! I didn’t know what to expect for a memoir about farm life from a celebrity, but it was great! You don’t have to be familiar with Hilarie Burton’s career at all to be captivated by her book. She narrates the audible version, and hearing her emotions significantly added to my listening experience.
Genre: Romance Date Started: January 22, 2021 Date Finished: January 23, 2021 Rating: 4/5 stars
I’d give a solid 3.75 stars for the third book in the Runaways series. I felt the male lead was a little obtuse in how he viewed the female lead, and his sudden change in feelings felt a bit unrealistic. But I enjoyed the banter between the two and thought it carried the spirit of the series well.
Genre: Romance Date Started: January 27, 2021 Date Finished: January 30, 2021 Rating: 5/5 stars
Hands-down, Lisa Kleypas is my favorite regency romance author. I have read over twenty of her novels! I was a bit apprehensive of starting her most recent series, The Ravenels, since sometimes authors start to phone it in after two dozen or so great books. But this one did not disappoint!
I’m hoping to write a more detailed review soon, so I’ll just lay out the highlights. A man who thinks he cannot love, a woman treated poorly by her now-deceased husband, and a family full of excitement and intrigue. I can’t wait to start the next book in the series!
And with that, January 2021 has come to a close. I can’t wait to see what I’ll read this month!
From one Wordo to another, thanks for tuning in! See you next time!
In honor of the second book in the Calamity, Montana series The Bluff being released next week, today I’m sharing my review of the first book, The Bribe. This was my second read of 2021 and I loved it!
Little Gold Book The Bribe by Willa Nash
Genre: Romance Date Started: January 9, 2021 Date Finished: January 9, 2021 Rating: 5/5 star
By Its Cover
Talk about a steamy cover! But don’t worry, this book isn’t all X-rated sex scenes. Although there are some, The Bribe centers on Lucy, a famous country music singer in hiding, and Duke, the sheriff of the small town in Montana that Lucy chose as her hiding spot. Chemistry burns between them instantly. As the romance between the two heats up, so does the mystery of what led Lucy to change her name and hide in Montana.
In My Book
The main characters, Duke and Lucy, start off with a meet-cute when Duke helps extricate Lucy and her BFF Everly from a herd of bison they encountered while hiking a trail in Montana. The spark between the two is instant and even though they depart without as much as a kiss, you know there’s going to be so much more between them. One of my favorite things about The Bribe is the chemistry between Duke and Lucy. It’s one thing to tell readers that the characters are attracted to one another; it’s a different thing entirely for a reader to be able to feel that connection leaping off the pages.
Pacing is something I often find off in romance books. It’s either too slow and drawn out or too fast and unrealistic. In this book, I thought the author Devney Perry did a great job of letting the relationship evolve between the main love interests. The lust was instant but the love was built on a strong foundation.
I enjoyed the conflicts in the story as well. There wasn’t just the main conflict of why Lucy was in hiding; there was also tension and disruption from Duke’s almost-stepson as well. This minor storyline kept the plot interesting as the major conflict developed, and the two intertwined for the climax of the book when Lucy came face-to-face with her stalker and would-be killer.
Perry laid out the foundation for a series set in Calamity, Montana quite nicely. By having the female lead be a newcomer to town, I got to explore the local attractions and meet the townsfolk through her eyes. I was introduced to the characters that would star in future books, but their presence didn’t take away from the story at hand – another complaint of mine for romance series!
To Close the Book
Instagram served me well by leading me to this book. Its sequel came up on my feed, as it’s the featured book in the February Bookish Box, who I follow on IG. As I pondered over whether to splurge on the box, I realized there was a first book of the series! Available on Kindle Unlimited, I downloaded The Bribe and read it in an afternoon. I loved it so much that I purchased a Kindle copy so I’d always have access. I’ve already pre-ordered the second book in the series!
One other thing to note – I haven’t talked about this yet because it just happened this month but I was (finally!) officially diagnosed with ADHD. I’m still wrapping my head around what that means for me, and I’ll be sure to share more about it in some personal essays in the future. What’s relevant here is that the day I read this book was my first time ever taking Adderall, which may have contributed to my ability to read a whole book in a day! I’m hoping this medication can help me focus on reading better – something I have struggled with a lot in recent years.
In December, I broke out of my four-month reading slump with a not-so-great (1 star) book. I didn’t want to end the year with that, so I decided to sneak in one more book. Stealing Home was the perfect positive and inspiring book to end the year on a high note.
Little Gold Book
Stealing Home by Sherryl Woods
Date Started: December 29, 2020
Date Finished: December 31, 2020
Rating: 4/5 star
(Note: I tend to rate books against others in their own genre. A 5-star romance book looks a lot different than a 5-star fiction novel.)
By Its Cover
The first book in the series that inspired Netflix’s Sweet Magnolias, Stealing Home is an uplifting story about a woman finding herself following a divorce. In her early forties, mother of three Maddie Townsend suddenly finds herself facing a divorce that she never expected. Her husband Bill has impregnated his mistress, a nurse at his pediatric practice who Maddie herself hired. For the first time in twenty years, Maddie has time to focus on what she wants and how to build a life of her own. With the support of her two best friends, as well as some encouragement from the town’s hunky baseball coach, Maddie begins her second act.
In My Book
My mom lent me her copies of the entire The Sweet Magnolias series after I mentioned that I wanted to read them before watching the new Netflix series inspired by the books. (I prefer inspired by, rather than based on. Even though I haven’t seen the show yet, I’m sure there are quite a few adaptations from the novels). She lent them to me over the summer, when I happened to be in the midst of a mega reading slump, and so they sat on my shelf quietly calling my name. After reading a quite awful “romance” novel, I needed something to shake up my spirits and end 2020 with a bang.
Although the bang was quieter than I’d anticipated, Stealing Home did just that. I’ll admit, it took me a while to get into this book. It’s not a fast-paced, laugh out loud, raunchy romance by any means. Instead, it focuses on Maddie’s first months as an independent woman following a twenty-year marriage. The plot unravels slowly, telling the heartwarming tale of a woman finding herself again.
Stealing Home is based in the fictional small town of Serenity, South Carolina, not too far from Charleston. I enjoyed the small-town life detailed in the book. Woods did a good job of balancing the positives against the negatives of small town life. As Maddie’s relationship with baseball coach Cal Maddox develops, the gossips in town raise major backlash at them, threatening both of their careers. There’s a bit of good triumphs over evil in that storyline, with Cal’s job being saved at a public hearing after he expresses his devotion to Maddie. It was a little over the top for my taste, but still sweet nonetheless.
Friendship is a focal point in this novel, as Maddie’s best friends Helen and Dana Sue support her through this trying time in her life. The friendship between the three is quite beautiful, having existed since they were in elementary school. I enjoyed the contrasting personalities of this trio and how well they complemented each other. Helen and Dana Sue’s unwavering support of Maddie is the type of friendship I’d be honored to have. They lent Maddie their confidence when she was shaken up by her husband’s betrayal and helped her figure out what her life should look like. They could be a bit pushy, but I think we all need that at times. I look forward to reading Helen and Dana Sue’s stories in the next books in the series.
I had a bit of trouble connecting with the main character Maddie, but that’s not entirely surprising when I reflect on it. I’m not a mother, nor do I have any desire to be. I have the utmost respect for women who can run a home with three children and promote their husband at the same time, but it’s not a life I envision for myself. In addition, Maddie was incredibly cautious, almost to the point of neurotic, about any decision she made. While I am certainly a risk-averse person, it was sometimes painful to read her waffling over decisions that seemed obvious to me. I think because I didn’t click with her on a personal level, I didn’t extend her the patience that I could have.
My one other gripe occurred in the final chapter. As the first book in a series, I knew there would be hints as to what the next book’s plot would entail. Totally fine; it usually draws me into the next story. This time though, it was too heavy-handed. Instead of being able to join this book’s happy ending, the attention was pulled away to the next book. It left a bitter taste in my mouth to wrap up an otherwise enjoyable read.
To Close the Book
My goal for this read was to end the year with a quick, feel-good novel. Stealing Home did just that! I’m looking forward to continuing the series later this year. Plus, now I have a new Netflix show to add to my queue.
Have you read any of The Sweet Magnolias series? Or watched the Netflix series? Let me know what you think in the comments section below!